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Richard Gere in Israeli Grief Drama Remake

Richard Gere in Israeli Grief Drama Remake

Savi Gabizon’s English-language remake of his 2017 Israeli drama starts out reasonably enough. Prosperous, middle-aged bachelor businessman Daniel (Richard Gere, who’s played this sort of role many times before) has a reunion in a restaurant with Rachel (Suzanne Clément), his Canadian former lover whom he hasn’t seen in twenty years. Daniel is understandably rattled to learn he has a 19-year-old son, Allen. When Rachel briefly leaves to use the restroom, he immediately attempts to contact his lawyer. Then he becomes even more rattled when she returns and informs him that Allen was recently killed in an accident in which his car plunged into a canal.

Daniel agrees to travel to Canada to visit his son’s grave. While there, he attempts to learn more about the child he never knew he had and discovers some disturbing things. One of Daniel’s friends tells him they had been dealing pot together and asks for $5,000 to compensate him for the stash that had been in Daniel’s car when he died. While visiting his son’s school, the principal informs him that Allen had been expelled for writing lewd poetry on a wall about one of the teachers, on whom he had developed a romantic fixation. Daniel defends the graffiti as being beautifully written, asking that the principal reinstate his son and give him a posthumous diploma, a request the principal denies.

Longing

The Bottom Line

A memorial service that goes on way too long.

Release date: Friday, June 7
Cast: Richard Gere, Diane Kruger, Suzanne Clément
Director-screenwriter: Savi Gabizon

Rated R,
1 hour 50 minutes

It’s an understandable reaction by a grieving father, even one who didn’t know his son. But as Daniel extends his stay to investigate further, he seems to become more and more obsessed. He introduces himself to Alice (Diane Kruger), the teacher with whom Allen was besotted, and asks her if she somehow encouraged him. Not surprisingly, she’s offended by the question, and refuses his request to accompany him to visit Allen’s grave. When he goes alone, he strikes up a friendship with a man tending to the grave of his teenage daughter who recently committed suicide.

The next day, Alice arrives at her classroom to discover Daniel sitting among the students. He informs her that the principal had given him permission to be there and asks if he can sit in the same chair once occupied by his son.

By then, it’s become apparent that Daniel is acting very strangely, which could certainly have been the basis for a provocative film about the outer limits of grief. But to its detriment, Longing never really goes there. Writer-director Gabizon presents the increasingly bizarre events in such a muted manner that drama never kicks in.

Even as Daniel learns more and more shocking things about his son and behaves in increasingly outlandish fashion, such as sitting for hours on the same bench outside the teacher’s apartment building that Allen had perched on to the point of stalking, he never wavers from his too-late devotion.

By the time he proposes a wedding between his late son and the dead daughter of the man he met at the cemetery, viewers will be left shaking their heads. That is, if they haven’t already mentally checked out after the fantasy scene in which Daniel imagines he and his son watching a giant, nude Alice pleasuring herself on the roof of the school building, the same vision Allen had described in his poem.

It doesn’t help that Gere delivers such a recessive, understated performance that we’re never able to connect emotionally with his character, which is as much the filmmaker’s fault as the actor’s. Instead of being drawn in by Daniel’s spiral, we observe it from a distance. The result is that Longing, presumably intended as a cathartic meditation on grief, simply feels absurd.  

Full credits

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Production: Mongrel Media, Anamorphic Media
Distributor: Lionsgate, Grindstone Entertainment Group
Cast: Richard Gere, Diane Kruger, Suzanne Clément
Director-screenwriter: Savi Gabizon
Producers: Alexander Vinnitski, Daniel Bekerman, Neil Mathieson
Executive producers: Andrew Frank, Hussain Amarshi, Oren Moverman, Avraham Pirchi, Chilik Micheaeli, Lisa Wilson, Alastair Burlingham, Joshua Deitell
Director of photography: Paul Sarossy
Production designer: Philip Baker
Costume designer: Ruth Secord
Music: Owen Pallet
Editor: Tali Helter-Shenkar
Casting: Deanna Brigidi

Rated R,
1 hour 50 minutes

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