(director/writer:Viggo Mortensen; cinematographer: Marcel Zyskind; editor: Ronald Sanders; music: Viggo Mortensen; cast: Viggo Mortensen (John Peterson), Lance Henriksen (Willis), Sverrir Gudnason (Young Willis), Hannah Gross (Gwen), Terry Chen (Eric Chen), Laura Linney (Sarah), Gabby Velis (Monica), Bracken Burns (Jill), William Healy (John at 16), Etienne Kellici (John, 9-11), Grady McKenzie (John at 4), David Cronenberg (Dr. Klausner); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Daniel Bekerman, Chris Curling, Viggo Mortensen; Zephyr Films; 2020)
“Makes for a difficult watch about an awful father I could care less about.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The actor Viggo Mortensen’s directorial debut is an abrasive and awkward family drama, whereby Viggo writes, directs and stars in an LGBTQ drama that sometimes doesn’t quite work smoothly. Though the actors all give superb performances in an emotional draining story.
John Paterson (Viggo Mortensen) lives in Los Angeles with his partner Eric (Terry Chen) and adopted daughter Monica (Gabby Velis). Living near him is his supportive sister Sarah (Laura Linney), who along with her brother John faced a hard time growing up with her brother in their dad’s repressive household. John makes an attempt to reconnect with his bigoted, homophobic and right-wing father, Willis (Lance Henriksen), who now has dementia. John brings him by plane from living alone in his upstate New York farm to his California home.
In its depictions of the harsh realities of both dementia (with dad forgetful of things) and the gay confrontation scenes in his hostile family upbringing, Viggo provides flashbacks of his character’s life as a child and the mind-set of his annoyingly rigid father (Sverrir Gudnaso, as the younger Willis) and life with his broken-hearted and disappointed with life mom Gwen (Hannah Gross).
The problem is we don’t have a good back story on Willis to completely understand him as an old man.
What the film excels in is capturing the family tensions, depicting the horrors of dementia and of the son forgiving the monster father, who now needs his son and daughter’s help to exist. It tells about a continued strained relationship, one that has its dramatic moments but makes for a difficult watch about an awful father I could care less about.
REVIEWED ON 1/10/2021 GRADE: C+