The City of Your Final Destination (Screen Media Films, PG-13)

There is no other word for this film than excellent: the actors, the story, the beautiful cinematography all feel so fresh and vibrant.

A welcome respite from the deluge of remakes, sequels and 3-D spectacles, The City of Your Final Destination is a beautiful film that explores the responsibility we have to those we love. Director James Ivory (Remains of the Day, Le Divorce) has collaborated once again with screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala to deliver an incredibly restrained story about a highly untraditional family that is so insulated in their own world that outsiders are treated with distrust and, occasionally, contempt. The film is darkly comic because of the absurdity of the characters’ world and their unwillingness to examine their own relationships.

Based on the novel by Peter Cameron, the story begins with Omar (Omar Metwally), a graduate student working on an authorized biography of author Jules Gund who published only one book before he died. Omar’s fellowship and position at the university is contingent on his publication of Gund’s biography and when the executors of the late author’s estate summarily deny authorization, Omar is forced to travel to their home in Uruguay to plead his case.

Gund’s “family” lives in the decaying estate called Ocho Rios that they treat as solace from the outside world. Living on the estate is Gund’s widow, Caroline (Laura Linney); his mistress, Arden (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and the daughter Gund had with her; and his brother, Adam (Anthony Hopkins) and his partner, Pete (Hiroyuki Sanada). Their life is held together by the most tenuous of arrangements and Omar’s unexpected visit increases the speed at which their façade is breaking down.

The City of Your Final Destination is an absolutely wonderful film and is easily one of the best released this year. The film’s comedy is so dark and sardonic that it could easily be missed. The characters speak plainly but are brutally honest which makes their obstinacy all the more hilarious. Ivory works with cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe (The Sea Inside, Vicky Christina Barcelona) to create the fantasy-like world that the Gund clan inhabits. Everything they need, and more importantly want, is available in Ocho Rios. Rarely do we see anyone leave the estate almost as if they are afraid their dilapidated palace will have vanished when they return.

The performances by the entire cast are outstanding. Metwally perfectly embodies Omar’s boyish naiveté and indecisiveness. He is frustratingly wide-eyed and optimistic and his overbearing girlfriend, Deirdre (Alexandra Maria Lara), is a welcome impetus for him to get a grip on life. Gainsbourg is excellent as the dutiful and respectful housemate of matriarch Caroline. Gainsbourg, who is beautiful in a beautifully nontraditional way, clearly loved Jules but she is forced to remain emotionless around Caroline which eats away at her very being.

Hopkins once again reminds us how truly talented of an actor he is. Of all the residents of Ocho Rios, Adam is the most complex and though he talks constantly he never has anything of substance to say. Pete is clearly the love of Adam’s life and Hopkins convinces us of this in every scene, even when he is pushing Pete away in an attempt to give him a better life.

With all due respect to the fine actors that appear in this film, Linney’s performance is the most moving and startlingly perfect. Instead of just playing Caroline as an uptight widow who runs everything her way, regardless of what others want, Linney gives glimpse of Caroline’s weaknesses and loneliness. Caroline is clearly trapped at the estate and though she refuses to admit it, Omar’s arrival is a thrill for her which Linney perfectly captures.

There is no other word for this film than excellent: the actors, the story, the beautiful cinematography all feel so fresh and vibrant. The City of Your Final Destination is a film that is sure to connect with every moviegoer who is lucky enough to see it. | Matthew F. Newlin

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