Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life to the full regardless of your age. As a colourful national treasure of an actor (think Richard Burton crossed with Ian McKellan), Cox storms through this film with personality and energy. And in his interaction with his costars, the filmmakers make some important points with offhanded charm.
Cox plays Sir Michael Gifford, a Shakespearean icon forced into retirement by Parkinson's. Living on his isolated country estate, he clashes continually with his daughter Sophia (Emilia Fox) and his assistant Milly (Anna Chancellor) about how he should live, dismissing a series of carers they have hired for him. Then the Hungarian Dorottya (Coco Konig) arrives, cracking through his bluster with her sharp intelligence, blunt compassion and her own experience performing Shakespeare's plays back home. She also conspires with him to attend a critics' ceremony at which he's being given a life achievement award. Sophia thinks he's not up to attending, so Dorottya turns to Milly and Michael's trusty driver Joseph (Karl Johnson) for help.
The simplicity of the plot helps the film avoid the usual pitfalls of these kinds of movies. There aren't any villains here (Sophia is just unusually concerned), and there's no romantic nonsense between Michael and Dorottya. The central message isn't revolutionary (people who are old or infirm shouldn't be hidden from society), and the plot never goes anywhere unexpected. But in the characters, the film finds a powerful resonance. It's funny, smart and utterly charming. And the cast deliver beautifully off-handed performances. Newcomer Konig nicely underplays Dorottya, which makes her strikingly likeable, especially as her own subplot about applying to acting school gurgles quietly in the background. Chancellor and Fox find intriguing textures in their roles, which are more complex than expected.
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But appreciating The Dreamers has nothing to do with pushing the audience in directions they shirk from. The sex and nudity, while physically bare to the eye, come more from the standpoint of natural innocence than pornographic prowess. The added connotations towards incest have also had people bubbling at the mouth. However, if you are able to ignore all these preconceptions, The Dreamers becomes a simple, and beautifully crafted, story of three individuals who test each other and themselves for a short period of time.
Continue reading: The Dreamers Review