Anthony Hopkins has enjoyed a long association with Merchant Ivory films (James Ivory and Ismail Merchant), with lavish sets and budgets to match with such Anthony Hopkins movies as “The Remains of The Day”, “Howard’s End” and “Surviving Picasso”. This relationship is now perpetuated by James Ivory alone, following the sudden death of Ismail Merchant in 2005, with Anthony Hopkins starring in his new movie “The City of Your Final Destination”, which has finally just been released, following cash-flow problems along the way and subsequent distribution problems since the movie was actually finished 3 years ago. This is the first movie James Ivory has made since the death of his partner.
“The City of Your Final Destination” is adapted from a novel by Peter Cameron of the same name, written in 2002. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, James Ivory’s longtime creative partner is again onboard adapting the script. The consistent ability that Merchant Ivory productions have is to set the mood and tone of a film from the outset, thereby drawing the viewer into the story with visual mastery and engaging story telling – this movie has all the usual hallmarks of Merchant Ivory films, superb acting, stylish sets, lush photography and a languid pace which holds the viewers attention throughout this movie as the story unfolds and the actors skillfully develop their characters. The sumptuous photography is courtesy of the ever so fine Javier Aguirresarobe, with editing by John David Allen. The film’s musical score is composed and arranged by Jorge Drexler.
The movie is set in Uruguay, South America but shot mostly outside Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the celebrated author Jules Gund who wrote a book about his parents, then mysteriously committed suicide midway through writing a second work. There is speculation as to what drove the author to shoot himself.
Actor Omar Metwally plays the part of the young Midwest college professor, Iranian born Omar Razaghi whose financial assistance depends on a biography he intends to write on the late Latin American author Jules Gund, however he needs to get consent from the executors of his estate which is proving troublesome. The family of the late author are the executors, Jules’ aged, gay brother Adam, Jules’ widow and his mistress who all live under one roof together on the vast, remote estate in Uruguay belonging to the late author. Alexandra Maria Lara plays Dierdre, Omar’s controlling girlfriend who orchestrates every move Omar makes, persuading him to go to Uruguay to reason with the family for their consent to the biography.
For the first time Anthony Hopkins plays a gay man, Adam, the brother of the deceased author, a seemingly relaxed individual who lives with his Japanese longterm partner Pete (Hiroyuki Sanada) who was only 15 when their 25 yr relationship started. Gund’s widow Caroline (Laura Linney) is a stiff-lipped, uptight, constantly scowling, long suffering woman who has endured the presence of her late husband’s mistress, Arden (Charlotte Gainsbourg) living openly in their marital home since Jules brought her back with him from a trip to Italy many years before.
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“The City of Your Final Destination” is a story about an outsider, Omar trying to gain acceptance in a very small, tight-knit dysfunctional family where at first Omar appears to be the only person with any semblance of sanity. Omar Metwally plays the young man convincingly, giving a fresh performance of a likeable smiling character on the surface with a hidden depth which is later revealed as he gradually becomes the character caught in the middle of an intruiging web of events over-taking him and outwith his control.
When he arrives, alone, at the late author’s estancia in Uruguay, he is invited by Arden, the late author’s mistress to stay at the house and there is at once a certain attraction between the two which begins to further complicate the situation. Widow Caroline opposes the book in no uncertain terms, brother Adam seems open to it, while Gund’s mistress Arden can see no further than her attraction for Omar.
The film progresses digging deep into the damaged personalties and strange lives of these diverse characters who still choose to live closely together in this beautiful cut-off part of the world where no one else seems to venture and the pace of life is slow and mellow. Meanwhile as talks slowly progress between Omar and the family, emotions start to run high as Omar delves deeper, uncovering family secrets and Deidre, his domineering girlfriend arrives to see how Omar is faring which brings more problems to the entertaining plot, which is peppered with caustic wit from Caroline, the late author’s widow who appears to gain any remaining strength from a bottle, the recurring question of loneliness and some near-death experiences, as well as being a classic romantic love story.
“The City of Your Final Destination” is intelligent, polished, sensitive and sensual with the usual Merchant Ivory subtle nuances and crescendo, with first class performances by Omar, Hopkins, Gainsbourg and Lara. Anthony Hopkins’ performance is charming and appears effortless. Great support acting was provided by Norma Aleandro as Mrs Van Euwen, hungry for male attention and from Adam’s capable, loving partner Hiroyuki Sanada, as Pete. There is dark humour in parts and the love match between the beautiful Arden and Omar is credible and sensitively portrayed.
Click here to buy “The City of Your Final Destination” DVD. Other Anthony Hopkins movies with James Ivory include “The Remains of The Day”.