Dir/scr: Virginia Gilbert. UK-France. 2013. 85mins

A Long Way From Home

If the central couple in Rossellini’s Voyage To Italy had grown old together they might have wound up as Joseph and Brenda in A Long Way Home, a modest exploration of old age, exile and longing. Writer/director Virginia Gilbert has adapted her own short story into a film that gives James Fox his most substantial role in years but lacks the bite or emotional heft to truly beguile.

There is enough ambiguity in the relationships of both couples to keep the story interesting.

Without the crowd-pleasing elements of Marigold Hotel or the artistic rigour of Amour, A Long Way Home may struggle to connect with an older audience theatrically but could have better opportunities among home viewers.The film had its world premiere at the Edinburgh Internartional Film Festival.

The blinding summer light of Nimes is a crucial factor in a slight tale that has echoes of the works of E.M. Forster. After fifty years together, Joseph (Fox) and Brenda (Brenda Fricker) have retired to southern France. They have become the old couple in a restaurant who have nothing left to say to one another.

Brenda seems frail and increasingly forgetful but Joseph is still full of vitality. When they meet young holiday couple Suzanne (Natalie Dormer) and Mark (Paul Nicholls), Joseph is instantly smitten and pursues her to the point of foolishness.

Fox is very adept at conveying the subtle shift of moods in a man wearily resigned to the unvarying routine of his life but briefly persuaded that things could be very different.

A radiant Natalie Dormer is equally convincing as a woman not entirely convinced that her future lies with her boyfriend.  There is enough ambiguity in the relationships of both couples to keep the story interesting but most audiences may conclude that there is not enough at stake to make them truly care about the outcome.

Production company/contact: February Films www.februaryfilms.com

Producers: Junyoung Jang, Guillaume Benski

Executive producers: James Jirayuth Sangtaweep, JB Virawat Dangsubutrau, Mauro Gabriele, Francois Robey, Luc Giraud, Corrado Jay Boccia, Virginia Gilbert, Abner Pastoll

Cinematography: Ed Rutherford

Editor: Thomas Goldser

Production designer: Thomas Laporte

Main cast: James Fox, Brenda Flicker, Natalie Dormer, Paul Nicholls