Eye For Film >> Movies >> Emile (2003) Film Review
Reviewed by: David Haviland
Emile bears comparison with Mike Leigh's films. It's very slow, not much happens and yet its sensitive humanity draws you in.
Ian McKellen plays Emile, a bumbling professor, who travels to his native Canada to receive an honorary degree for his life's work; a life spent in exile in England.
On arrival, he stays with his niece, Nadia, and her daughter, and finds both brittle and unfriendly. Over time we learn why, as a series of flashbacks reveal his regrets for the mistakes of the past.
Emile is the final part of a thematically-linked trilogy from Carl Bessai and boasts impressive cinematography and well-crafted scenes.
One of the best of these comes early, when a clumsy gesture reveals Emile's non-committal relationship with his housekeeper-cum-partner and thus his innate cowardice.
Bessai's screenplay refreshingly avoids obvious exposition. As a result, the first half hour is slightly confusing, as we try to figure out Emile's relationships with the various characters.
McKellen gives a moving performance and yet his casting feels like a mistake. He is, after all, a definitive Englishman and, as such, an unconvincing Canadian.
He also plays the teenage Emile in flashback, which makes these scenes slightly ludicrous, as we're expected to pretend that McKellen is a burly teenage farmhand.
However, despite these flaws, the film has moving moments, thanks to a sensitive screenplay and excellent cast, with Deborah Kara Unger outstanding, as the defensive, vulnerable Nadia.Reviewed on: 28 May 2004
If you like this, try:Shadowlands