A powerful literary adaption.
Anyone familiar with the Merchant-Ivory canon will know what to expect here. The City Of Your Final Destination is a languidly paced but visually sumptuous drama, a lyrical and literate adaptation of a contemporary novel, and featuring solid performances from a top notch cast. This is the first film James Ivory has made since the death of his long time producing partner Ismail Merchant, and it is filled with a sense of loss and longing.
Omar Razaghi, played by Omar Metwally, is a university Ph. D candidate who plans to write a biography on celebrated Latin-American author Jules Gund. However the executors of the estate are anxious to protect his reputation, and have refused permission. At the insistence of his domineering girlfriend Diedre (Alexandra Maria Lara) Omar travels to Uruguay in the hopes of convincing the executors to change their mind.
He becomes caught up in the dynamics of the Gund family, expatriates living in deceptive luxury in self-imposed isolation on the sprawling but decaying family ranch. The longer Omar stays, the more he is seduced by their life style. However, the unexpected arrival of Diedre to check on Omar’s progress creates a frisson of tension.
The performances of the cast are uniformly excellent. Laura Linney is very good as the cold, imperious, bitter and emotionally brittle widow who is opposed to airing the family’s dirty laundry, and brings a suitably caustic edge to her performance. Charlotte Gainsborough brings passion and warmth to her role as Arden, the passionate and much younger mistress. Best of all though is Anthony Hopkins, who is superb as Adam, the homosexual older brother who is keen to have the biography published as it will make Jules relevant again, and also bring in some much needed money to prop up the rapidly failing family fortune. He delivers his arch lines in his perfectly mellifluous tones.
This is a visually sumptuous film with solid production values. Filmed on location in Buenos Aires, the film is gorgeous to look at, thanks to the rich cinematography of Javier Aguirresarobe, who has also photographed The Road and the last two films in the Twilight series. Jorge Drexler’s Latino-inspired music further enhances the mood of the film.
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has written the articulate and beautifully literate screenplay, based on Peter Cameron’s 2002 novel. The dialogue is witty and, although the stinging barbs are delivered in polite, civil tones, they are just as effective in cutting to the quick. Ivory maintains a nicely languid and melancholy tone throughout that is similar to other films like Howard’s Way and The Remains Of The Day.
However, gone are the days when Merchant Ivory films like A Room With A View had mass appeal and were commercially successful. The City Of Your Final Destination contains some pleasures, but this is finely crafted film will mainly appeal to art house audiences, and will not become the destination of choice for the majority of film goers.