It’s a curious thing but The Carer (2016) isn’t playing at the Windsor Cinema in Nedlands. Yet it is an attraction at the Windsor’s stablemates, Luna on Sx and Cinema Paradiso.
The Windsor is Perth’s home for films aimed at the elderly and, despite Emmanuel Cant getting a mention at one point and the soubriquet for lovemaking having many outings in the dialogue, The Carer should have been a Windsor shoo-in. The movie’s theme of a crotchety old man being made more human and endearing by a young person is a tried-and-true winner with audiences and The Carer takes its share of the market.
Powerfully-voiced Scots actor Brian Cox is best known these days for playing villains in US movies – think two of the Bourne films where his CIA bad egg protects the remnants of the failed
Treadstone programme. In The Carer he hones his Shakespearean skills as ageing theatre veteran Sir Michael Gifford, slowly dying in his wonderful manor house. The old man dominates his housekeeper-former lover Milly (Anna Chancellor) and has a damaging relationship with his controlling daughter Sophia (Emilia Fox), while being cared for by an insipid doctor.
Enter aspiring young actress, Dorottya (Coco Konig), a Hungarian emigre and creative carer who just might be his salvation. The youngster gives the old man as good as she gets and he responds (a familiar theme I must say) but is the carer making a career-advancing move by putting herself so close to the great man? This naive reviewer hadn’t given this a thought but my film club buddies were all over it.
Dorottya’s uncle, who works with her at the same old people’s home, turns out to be a former stage compatriot of Sir Michael and is known to Joseph (Karl Jackson), the actor’s chauffeur-gardener and former dresser. A plot has been hatched.
There are some touching scenes, plenty of humour, wonderful movie references and loads of drama dialogue to entertain and educate the viewer. Dorottya has an encyclopaedic knowledge of theatre and film and proudly defends her Hungarian heritage, notably when Sir Michael asks her to watch To Be Or Not To Be (1942), Ernst Lubitsch’s anti-Nazi film starring Jack Benny. The film classic, re-made by Mel Brooks in 1983, provides the gag which brings the film to its conclusion.
Sir Michael’s final soliloquy brings to light the film’s message that it is best to simply ‘be’, something we all should embrace given the challenges faced with ageing parents and our own march into old, old age.
One final note. Perhaps this film could have done with a soundtrack? The elevator music that accompanied Dorottya’s journey to Sir Michael’s house was so twee I thought I was going to dislike this movie. Thankfully, once the dialogue became sharp, I forgot this weakness.
If I may further indulge myself, my favourite quote from the film:
“Cowards die many times before their deaths.
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear,
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.”
Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare. Act 2, Scene 2