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28-year-old Kansas University doctoral student Omar Razaghi (Omar Metwally) has been awarded a literary grant to write the biography of the late Latin American writer Jules Gund. When Gund's estate unexpectedly denies Omar authorisation, Omar is urged by his girlfriend Deirdre (Alexandra Maria Lara) to travel to Uruguay and petition the executor to change their minds. The Gund 'family' living together on the author's isolated and decaying estate, includes Gund's widow Caroline (Laura Linney), his mistress Arden (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her young daughter Portia (Ambar Mallman), Gund's brother Adam (Anthony Hopkins) and his partner Pete (Hiroyuki Sanada). Omar's unannounced arrival upsets their fragile co-existence and causes all to question their own circumstances, which in turn leads Omar himself to question to what degree, if any; he has been the master of his own fate.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The languor of northern Paraguay with an assortment of characters who all come from somewhere else but are more than expats, and the silken strings that connect them to the rest of the world, are elements that combine to create a rich and engaging film from one of cinema's grand masters. James Ivory, making his 24th film with writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala but his first since the death of his producing partner Ismail Merchant, handles this adaptation with skill and (all but for one inexplicable jump in story) with finesse.

The nuances of the novel are retained as Omar Razaghi (Omar Metwally) is propelled into this unorthodox family unit by his assured girlfriend Deirdre - played with tremendous control and persuasion by Alexandra Maria Lara. Omar is less assured, less in control of his fate, but he goes along with the plan only to find himself sucked into the layers and complexities of the relationships of the Gund menagerie.

It's a fascinating household, one I would also happily frequent for drinks and or dinner; they are civil and fascinating in their various ways, yet somehow stunted by their self-imposed isolation and their resignation as fate moves them slowly, like so many heavy rail cars on their predetermined railway tracks.

Anthony Hopkins has summoned his grand majeste style and is as unwound as possible, conveying a sense of resignation, but with a dose of humanity and simple eloquence. Hiroyuki Sanada has a small but crucial role as Pete, Adam's long term partner and they make their relationship real and special with endless understatement.

Laura Linney has a tougher role, playing the widow who is dead against a biography of her late husband - for reasons not entirely clear even to herself. Just that nagging doubt ... And no wonder; she is perhaps unsure about how she would be perceived as the wife who stayed put when husband Jules came home one day with his pregnant girlfriend, Arden (Charlotte Gainsbourg). And I must mention the wonderful Norma Aleandro who plays a lively and elegant socialite with a penchant for young men, good ideas, gossip and plenty of human interaction.

The dialogue - almost always of a high calibre - and the sentiments generate a kind of cinematic web in which Ivory catches us and holds us captive and still, as the slow release ending points us to the real ending, a subtle but important change in our main protagonist.

Review by Louise Keller:
Fate, chance and literature are the signposts of this richly textured drama in which people not purpose beckon and where time is not a precious commodity. With all the cinematic trademarks of a James Ivory film, this adaptation of Peter Cameron's novel seduces us slowly, as we get to know the characters whose lives are intertwined for better and for worse. The story's catalyst is absent but always present, as we meet his brother, his wife and his lover, as well as the aspiring biographer and his controlling girlfriend. It's about love, regrets and aspirations and how a potentially fatal bee sting can save a life - or two. Wonderfully involving and life enforcing, this multi faceted drama with delicately measured performances is a sublime journey for the discerning.

The setting - a picturesque, secluded property in Uruguay, past the perfectly aligned firs and tree-lined roads - is vital to the mood of the film, and is established from the very beginning. Then we meet Omar Metwally's indecisive protagonist Omar, the professor of literature who has a fear of quicksand and his determined, practical, controlling girlfriend Deidre (Alexandra Maria Lara). Permission for him to write the biography he wants to write has already been denied, but he hopes that meeting with and talking to the three key people in the life of the acclaimed writer, will persuade them otherwise. Metwally is excellent as the man in search of his destination as is Lara, who speaks her mind, not her heart.

There is civility and champagne on the verandah, a kiss in a gondola, girltalk during a cattle crossing, jewellery smuggling deals, conversations about art while our hearts soar as The Merry Widow's Vilia plays. The cast is all perfect: Anthony Hopkins as Adam, who wants to give Peter (Hiroyuki Sandada, excellent) his younger homosexual lover a new life; Laura Linney as the icy Caroline ('sometimes it's good to fail'), who paints copies of the masters so as not to reveal anything about herself; Charlotte Gainsbourgh as Arden, the romantic loner with a love child who feels as though she was born an orphan.

It is the incongruence of the characters and how their relationships develop and change that is fascinating. The film's constantly moving tempo is like being on an emotional escalator which constantly takes us to different levels. By the time we have heard about paramours, opera, comas, Germany, Moscow and beautiful women, we have been transported deep in Uruguay's heart and the hearts of those around Omar as the film leads us to a satisfying resolution. This is a beautiful film for those who are interested in matters of the heart.

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(US, 2009)

CAST: Anthony Hopkins, Laura Linney, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Omar Metwally, Alexandra Maria Lara, Hiroyuki Sanada, Norma Aleandro, Ambar Mallman

PRODUCER: Paul Bradley, Pierre Proner

DIRECTOR: James Ivory

SCRIPT: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (novel by Peter Cameron)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Javier Aguirresarobe

EDITOR: John David Allen

MUSIC: Jorge Drexler


RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 14, 2010

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