Rory’s Way review – Brian Cox can’t keep this dawdling drama on course | Film

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Every now and again – between Question Time bookings – Brian Cox reminds us just what a powerhouse screen presence he can be. Since his terrific work in Spike Jonze’s Adaptation and Michael Cuesta’s underseen L.I.E., however, TV has provided his most notable roles: the gentleman-impresario of Deadwood, Neil Forsyth’s blustering Bob Servant, and recently media mogul Logan Roy on HBO’s Succession.

This middle-of-the-road drama sees Cox crafting something notionally characterful in the guise of Rory McNeil, an ailing Highland crofter (hobbies: whittling, skinny-dipping) yanked decisively into the 21st century. Yet he’s doing so in a film that sets its satnav for that grey hinterland between soporific matinee fare and reactionary bunk. Its arcs and beats are as careworn as your grandfather’s armchair.

Once Rory is installed in the chichi San Franciscan apartment of sous chef son Ian (JJ Feild) ahead of an appointment with a medical specialist, we’re waiting for the gruff Rory to resolve any unfinished business and meet the Reaper head-on. Israeli directors Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis while away time pitting their protagonist against some of the west coast’s more forward-facing aspects, as if he were a kilted Crocodile Dundee. Rory never strays into the Castro district, regrettably, but many tuts and grumbles are elicited at the expense of selfie-snappers, Segways and cocktail mixologists. Handed a vaporous brew labelled the Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Rory mutters “Smoke gets in my bollocks, more like”, which is as close as the five credited writers get to wit.

Capable performers throng these otherwise nondescript digital frames, vainly trying to persuade us we’re not watching some rogue telefilm. Thora Birch makes a welcome return as Rory’s daughter-in-law, a character defined chiefly by her power suit; Rosanna Arquette’s gallery owner extends the prospect of a final fling; and Peter Coyote plays an academic taking an interest in Rory’s profane strain of Gaelic. All this, however, proves secondary to minor matters of inheritance that prompt defensive spluttering at the ways of the new world, then some very tatty and obvious platitudes. Cox grants the occasional sentiment a semblance of heft, but everything else gets flimsier by the frame.

Source: The Guardian
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