Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Home-vid debut for old-fashioned, don't-miss, highly collaborative film, THE ETRUSCAN SMILE

One of those rare examples of a huge international collaboration -- an Israeli directing duo (Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis, shown below, with Ms Brezis on the left), five screen-writers adapting a popular Spanish novel by José Luis Sampedro, filmed in Scotland and San Francisco and featuring actors from both sides of the Atlantic -- THE ETRUSCAN SMILE works better than you could possibly imagine, thanks to the skill, talent and sheer love gifted by everyone involved. Sure, the plot is probably as recycled as anything you've lately (or formerly) seen, yet every would-be cliche is either turned a tad askew or simply brought to such pulsating and believable life that you don't simply go along with it, you fucking embrace it.

Let's start with the movie's star, Brian Cox (at top and below): If this versatile and amazing actor is not considered one of England's "national treasures," along with the likes of Maggie Smith or Judi Dench, it must only be because he has fought so long and hard for Scottish independence from Britain. Here he plays an aging fellow named Rory, diagnosed with a disease for which he must travel from his home on the beautiful coast of Scotland to the USA for proper treatment, and to the San Francisco home of his estranged son, his daughter-in-law and his new grandson. Yes, you can easily predict the outcome, but getting there is so filled with beauty, fun, small surprises and spot-on performances that it's the journey, as they say, and not destination that proves most important.

Mr. Cox, utterly penetrating, specific and aglow -- whether he's the star bad guy, as in the current series Succession; a mere supporting player, as in the recent what's-going-on-here? thriller Last Moment of Clarity; or merely the best Winston Churchill I've yet seen -- adds luster to anything in which he appears. He's also a gracious, giving actor who never seems to "hog" the screen. Consequently, all the supporting performers shine, too, including the very fine JJ Feild (below, right, one of the great movie villains in the delightful and under-rated thriller, Not Safe for Work) and Thora Birch (below, left) as, respectively, the son and daughter-in-law.

Rosanna Arquette (below, left) is lovely, too, as a museum official and unexpected romantic interest, while actors like Peter Coyote (at center, two photos below) and Treat Williams (three photos below) bring the necessary professional-polish-plus to their roles.

Sub-plots such as the son's wanna-be chef career, the protection and survival of original Scots languages, and the too-helicopter parenting of that grandson are nicely woven into the whole, so the movie bounces along beautifully throughout.

Speaking of that grandson, TrustMovies does not usually have all that much to say about performances by very young children, but the little boy in The Etruscan Smile (shown at bottom and played by two youngsters, Oliver Epps and Elliot Epps) is as adorable as any kid this age I've seen on film.

My spouse noted that the filmmakers must have spent literally days and days getting all this amazing footage of the child. Either that, or those Epps toddlers are just naturally happy little scene stealers.

A word also must be said the for the sparkling and often gorgeous widescreen cinematography (by the great Javier Aguirresarobe) whose exteriors or Scotland (above) and interiors of lush apartments and/or museums (below) help make this a don't-want-to-take-your-eyes-off-it movie experience.

It is also a very moving one. We were not dried-eyed by the finale, nor do I suspect you will be. But all your attention here, as well as your smiles and tears, are well earned. This is old-fashioned, classy, story-well-told moviemaking at its finest.

From Lightyear Entertainment, running 107 minutes and distributed in the USA via MVD Entertainment Group, The Etruscan Smile, after a virtual theatrical release in April and May, is available now on home video via DVD, Blu-ray and digital streaming

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