Sir Michael Gifford is not a pleasant man. An aging actor quick to quote Shakespeare and shaken by his failing health, he is nonetheless a cantankerous, foul-mouthed, pompous ass – Brian Cox is perfect as him. In contrast Dorottya, his carer, is a delight. Newcomer Coco König sparkles as the sweet-natured and funny young woman, consistently headstrong and determined in the face of prejudice against her Hungarian heritage.
The Carer’s best is in this central duo’s badinage; the rest is just bad. From a melodramatic score to cinematography which goes unflatteringly soapy in the third act, the less said about the technical elements the better. Somehow a seemingly sprightly 90-minute runtime stretches into a slow, stolid slog.
The supporting cast make little splash too, with the strange and strained motives of Sir Michael’s devotees only serving as unnecessary and unmemorable distractions. Roger Moore performs a peculiar cameo (as himself) to reminisce on his memories making movies with our lead, doubly strange when you realise this is the first time in 300 combined credits that they have (sort of) shared a screen.
The film is predictably typical for a character whose house and memories are self-absorbed in their past; rise, fury, fall, redemption. Hamlet’s question of “to be, or not to be” is used as a rhetorical MacGuffin, leading to pontification on whether Sir Michael will be remembered for career or being cared for. Frankly, despite all that Cox and König have to offer, it’s hard to care.
Coco König and Brian Cox are the only stars in an otherwise mediocre show; this debut actress more than capably shares stage and screen with the veteran actor. Let down by everything else in a film obsessed with the question of to be or not, they really shouldn’t have been.
CAST: Brian Cox, Anna Chancellor, Emilia Fox, Coco König
DIRECTOR: János Edelényi
WRITERS: Gilbert Adair, János Edelényi, Tom Kinninmont
SYNOPSIS: Dorothy (König) is a young Hungarian actress with a burning desire: to make it on the English stage. Legendary actor Sir Michael Gifford (Cox) suffers from an incurable disease, and has one desire: be left alone. When Dorottya becomes his carer they both hope their wish will be fulfilled.