Rory’s Way

Rory's Way
Rory’s Way
Directed by Oded Binnun & Mihal Brezis
Starring Brian Cox, Rosanna Arquette, JJ Feild and Thora Birch
In UK Cinemas May 31st, 2019

by Alex Plant

Based on the 1985 Spanish novel The Etruscan Smile, Rory’s Way is a classic fish-out-of-water story. Having spent his entire life on the rugged Scottish island of Lewis, Rory (Cox) takes a trip out to San Francisco to stay with his estranged son, Ian (Feild), and seek medical treatment for an unknown ailment. Amidst the sea of expected cultural misunderstandings and hijinks, he finds himself an anchor in his infant grandson and believes it his duty to protect the boy from “modern” parenting techniques and the American lifestyle that has made his own son “soft”. Along the way he makes a romantic connection, anticipates a victory in a generations-old feud, becomes the subject of a university study and seeks out San Francisco’s best blood sausage.

This is the sort of role that is custom-built for an actor like Cox and he is clearly having a whale of a time, revelling in his own cultural heritage and portraying the sort of hard edged-character he’s so often associated with; this time in a lead role rather than a supporting capacity. There’s a subtlety to his performance that carries this film too. Rory’s secretive nature and his stubborn pride lend a strong sense of realism to his relationship with Ian, who left the Hebrides to escape his father’s particular style of parenting.

Feild leads an impressive supporting cast of actors who feel like they’ve fallen by the wayside in recent years. The roles aren’t all meaty as such, as the focus lies primarily on Cox. But, it’s nice to see decent turns from Thora Birch, Rosanna Arquette, Tim Matheson, Treat Williams and Peter Coyote.

Directing team Oded Binnaun and Mihal Brezis shoot both Lewis and San Francisco beautifully, displaying a keen eye for the contrasts and similarities between the two seemingly disparate locations. However, after the striking opening, you’ll find yourself wishing that a little more of the film took place in Scotland.

A particularly interesting aspect of Rory’s Way is the inclusion of subtitled gallic dialogue and the idea of the worthiness that lies in trying to protect dying languages and cultural memes. It gets a bit schmaltzy at times, but there’s just about enough quirk and charm in the performances to stop it from becoming too cringeworthy.

There are aspects of the story that are perhaps better not analysed too closely (such as why Rory travels from the Hebrides to the US to see a doctor, rather than say, Glasgow), but overall this an enjoyable narrative about the importance of family, legacy and coming to terms with your own mortality. Rory’s Way doesn’t exactly reinvent the fish-out-of-water story, but it’s touching and well-judged enough to satisfy most.



 

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