ETRUSCAN SMILE, THE (RORY’S WAY)
directors: Mihal Brezis, Oded Binnun; screenwriters: Michael McGowan, Michael Lali Kagan, Sarah Bellwood/from the novel “La Sonrisa Etrusca” by Jose Luis Sampedro; cinematographer: Javier Aguirresarobe; editors: Roberto Silvi/Larry Madaras; music: Frank Ilfman; cast: Brian Cox (Rory MacNeil), JJ Feild (Ian), Thora Birch (Emily), Peter Coyote (Professor), Tim Matheson (Weiss), Emanuel Cohn (Academic Man), Clive Russell (Campbell), Josh Stamberg (Jeff), Treat Williams (Frank Barron), Rosanna Arquette (Claudia); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Arthur Cohn; Lightyear Entertainment; 2018-English, Scottish Gaelic dialogue)
“The marvelous performance by Brian Cox is what puts a Bonnie proper kilt on the dull narrative and at least makes it bearable.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Its co-directors are first-timers Mihal Brezis and Oded Binnun. They base their formulaic though affecting drama on the best-selling novel “La Sonrisa Etrusca” by the Spaniard Jose Luis Sampedro. Writers Michael McGowan, Michael Lali Kagan and Sarah Bellwood change the location from Milan to Scotland and San Francisco.
The marvelous performance by Brian Cox is what puts a Bonnie proper kilt on the dull narrative and at least makes it bearable.
The ornery septuagenarian Rory MacNeil (Brian Cox) reluctantly moves from the remote Scottish Hebrides, his family home for generations, to San Francisco to live with his estranged son Ian (JJ Feild) and his wife Emily (Thora Birch), as he seeks medical treatment for his terminal illness of cancer. Ian left home to attend college in the States and never returned home, thereby escaping a family feud with dad (a feud that we’re never told exactly what it’s about). While staying with his son, despite his declining health, Rory finds the strength to bond with his infant grandson Jamie. This helps repair the damage that transpired over the years between father and son. Though Rory is displeased that the over-bearing Frank (Treat Williams), Emily’s wealthy father, is in Ian’s ears and pushing him into going from sous chef to restaurateur. The aggressive Rory wishes Ian would be his own man.
Also thrown into the visit is a few meet-cute encounters the blunt-speaking Rory has with the much younger Claudia (Rosanna Arquette), a museum curator, as the Scotsman turns off his insensitivity motor and revs up his old school charm to seduce her with his wit until she learns of his terminal illness and jumps ship.
We get the emotional gamut here of pain and love among family members, as you would expect from a family drama about mending old wounds. In that respect, it’s no better or worse than most such conventional dramas.
Its cutesy title refers to that ancient statue Rory becomes fond of in Claudia’s museum, whose smile indicates the possibility of a happy death.
REVIEWED ON 4/9/2020 GRADE: B-