The emotional wallop of this movie unfolds after Giles has installed himself in a seedy motel in Chesterton, Long Island.
"Love and Death on Long Island" tackles an unpleasant subject with grace. Telling a story of obsession, it leaves the principals with their dignity intact and manages to dance lightly where other films might have walked with a heavy step. The result is a fragile but winning blend of smiles and compassion. It is deftly made and beautifully acted.
Giles De'Ath (John Hurt) is an English writer in upper middle age who has one foot, and most of the details of his life, firmly planted in the nineteenth century. Asked if he uses a computer, he replies, "I am a writer; I don't process words." He is formal, habitual, and orderly, and he is tended by his housekeeper, Mrs. Barker (Sheila Hancock), a protective soul who observes with perfect propriety the routines he has set for himself.
On his way to see a movie based on an E.M. Forster novel, Giles wanders into the wrong theater, where he is confronted by "Hot Pants College 2." In one of the inexplicable ways of love, Giles instantly falls in love with the movie's teenage star, Ronnie Bostock (Jason Priestly), a young man who evokes, for Giles, the image of a pre-Raphaelite painting.
At home, in the classic English formality of his books and comforts, Giles begins to clip stories about Ronnie. He researches the boy. Indulging his need for a TV so he can watch Ronnie's movies, he browses, with archaic innocence, in the microwave section of the appliance store. When he drifts from the text of a lecture on "The Death of the Future" to a rumination on film, a colleague suggests that Giles needs some time off.
The emotional wallop of this movie unfolds after Giles has installed himself in a seedy motel in Chesterton, Long Island. In slow bits of manipulative deception, he insinuates himself into the life of Ronnie and his girlfriend. This is a man who knows that his obsession is ludicrous, but is nonetheless powerless to abandon it. He is diminished by his inability to resist.
Director Richard Kwietniowski has drawn a sensitive performance from Jason Priestly, who manages to project idealism and decency in a bewildering situation. John Hurt is astonishing as Giles. Creating first the English writer, and then the man hit by a thunderbolt, he conveys the desperation of a man blinded by love and blind to reality. Before our eyes, a man of another era is transported physically and emotionally into the modern world by his obsession.
As many good films do, this one reminds us that emotions scream far more loudly when they are observed without the distraction of conflict. The absence of anger, of villains, of loudness, allows us to understand a man's desperation. Two gestures, one by the boy, one by a bartender, are moving beyond words. We are carried back and forth gently between humor and pain, and then we are struck silent by compassion.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 492
Studio : Lions Gate Releasing
Rating : PG-13
Running Time: 1h33m
Copyright (c) Illusion
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