A Long Way From Home

A Long Way From Home


Reviewed by: Robert Munro

The thought of comfortably retiring to the south of France, wandering cobbled ruins without a care in the world may be appealing to many. But with no work, no family, few friends, what do a couple do, day after day, night after night, but each complete the Times’ crossword of a morning and dine in the same restaurant (and eat the same meal) every night?

It is into this terrain that A Long Way From Home delves, or rather skims across the surface somewhat too easily. Joseph (James Fox) and Brenda (Brenda Fricker) are said retired couple. Brenda is more at ease with retirement than Joseph, whose apparent trouble with depression resurfaces when young couple Suzanne (Natalie Dormer) and Mark (Paul Nicholls) turn up at their favourite restaurant.

Joseph becomes enamoured with Suzanne during the course of their meal, and contrives situation after situation to bump into Suzanne and Mark over the few days of their stay in Nimes. His attempts to be around Suzanne are as clumsily executed as the film’s script, which forces some truly dreadful dialogue into its characters’ mouths.

And it’s a shame, because there are things to be mined from Virginia Gilbert’s scenario; inherent drama and conflict in Joseph’s obvious and impossible longing for Suzanne; a potentially intriguing critique of the faux-bourgeois lifestyle Joseph and Brenda lead. Yet the film never goes anywhere, never develops any conflict and never feels believable.

Brenda enters a room and forgets what she went in there for. Well, we’ve all done that, but Joseph’s pained reaction and the trouble on Brenda’s face suggests it’s not the first time. A trip to the doctor follows, but it’s okay – the doctor says she’s alright. Just cut down on the steak a bit, Brenda. But, oh, Joseph do you need to go back on the anti-depressants? No more is said of Brenda’s forgetfulness.

The bang, bang, banging of a window shutter irritates Joseph every morning, but Brenda doesn’t seem to hear it. His troubled face: it’s the black dog woof, woof, woofing from a distance again. Of course, when Joseph is wrapped up in bed in the dark, the shutter bangs no more – the black dog has engulfed him.

It’s all a little trite and feels false from the get-go, like Mark’s apparent blokey interesting in becoming a wine producer. We never believe in any of the relationships between any of the characters – the film never gives us a reason to. It feels like a rather clichéd, airport-read interpretation of what people might say, without any real understanding of the way in which human beings interact with one another.

Reviewed on: 19 Jun 2013
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Meeting a holidaying couple causes a retired couple to reassess life.
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Director: Virginia Gilbert

Writer: Virginia Gilbert

Starring: James Fox, Natalie Dormer, Paul Nicholls, Brenda Fricker, Betty Krestinsky, Brian Gilbert, Catriona McColl, Isalinde Giovangigli, Julien Masdoua, Collin Hill, Frédéric Largier

Year: 2013

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, France


EIFF 2013

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