(director: Roger Michell; screenwriters: Christian Thorpe/based on his screenplay for Silent Heart; cinematographer: Mike Eley; editor: Kristina Hetherington; music: Peter Gregson; cast: Kate Winslet (Jennifer),  Sam Neill (Paul), Mia Wasikowska (Anna), Rainn Wilson (Michael), Susan Sarandan (Lily), Bex Taylor-Klaus (Chris), Lindsay Duncan (Liz), Anson Boon (Jonathan); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Sherryl Clark, David Bernardi, Rob Van Norden; Millennium Films; 2019-UK)

Don’t expect any debate over euthanasia, it’s not that kind of film.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s a remake of the 2014 Danish film ‘Silent Heart’. A seemingly detached Roger Michell (“Venus “/”My Cousin Rachel”), the South African filmmaker, seems to have baled on this one. Though he gracefully directs this right-to-die family drama tear-jerker but without much heart and keeps it more like a well-acted but jejune family soap-opera. It’s written by Christian Thorpe, based on the original he also wrote for a European audience. The great Susan Sarandon plays Lily, a feisty upper-middle-class dying matriarch, afflicted with ALS, hosting her family for the week-end in her upscale Connecticut beach house, for one last time before taking her lethal drug cocktail. By her side is her supportive doctor husband, Paul (Sam Neill, in a role he’s wasted with nothing to do but look downcast). It takes place during the Christmas season.

Don’t expect any debate over euthanasia, it’s not that kind of film. Instead we get thinly drawn family members present at this downer reunion. They include Lily’s oldest, uptight, control-freak, daughter Jennifer (Kate Winslet), married to the dull pedantic Michael (Rainn Wilson) and with an impervious nagged to death teenage son Jonathan (Anson Boon); Jennifer’s directionless younger sister Anna (Mia Wasikowska) and her girlfriend Chris (Bex Taylor-Klaus). The only guest with some fire in her belly is Lily’s longest friend Liz (Lindsay Duncan), who is the one I connected with in this maudlin melodrama.

It’s a film dying to say something important, but in need of an Ingmar Bergman type to direct it with some heft.

To make matters worse, the climax comes with an absurd twist that is not believable.

REVIEWED ON 9/23/2020  GRADE: C+