City of Your Final Destination, The: Light Drama Starring Anthony Hopkins and Laura Linney

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By Tim Grierson

A light drama that’s slight but also inviting, “The City of Your Final Destination,” starring Anthony Hopkins and Laura Linney, finds octogenarian filmmaker James Ivory (“Room With a View,” “Howards End”) pursuing his recurrent themes of class and love, with a relaxed melancholy air.
Based on Peter Cameron’s 2002 novel about a graduate student who goes to Uruguay to visit the eccentric family whose authorization he needs in order to write a biography of a deceased author, “City of Your Final Destination” is more a collection of nicely nuanced performances than a stirring narrative, but the sharp cast, vivid locations and gentle rhythms are reward enough.
Omar (Omar Metwally), an Iranian-American graduate student, discovers that the family of the late author Jules Gund has denied his request to write an authorized biography of the man. Beyond the disappointment of the rejection, though, Omar is worried because he will lose his fellowship if he can’t get the Gund family’s go-ahead for the book. Terrified at the thought of having to leave the academic world to find a regular job, Omar heeds the advice of his assertive girlfriend Deirdre (Alexandria Maria Lara), who suggests that he travel to the family’s estate in Uruguay to implore them in person. Omar’s timidity normally would keep him from doing such an impulsive thing, but he’s desperate, so he books a flight to see the Gunds.
When he arrives at the Gund compound, he meets the three individuals who hold the fate of his book in their hands. Caroline (Laura Linney) is Jules Gund’s widow, an intimidating woman who doesn’t want anyone writing about the Gunds. Arden (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is the late author’s tenderhearted mistress with whom he had a daughter. Then there’s Adam (Anthony Hopkins), the author’s brother who has been romantically involved with Pete (Hiroyuki Sanada) for 25 years. Caroline is adamantly opposed to Omar’s request, Adam is in favor of a biography, and Arden is uncertain, which means that Omar’s task will be tricky but not impossible.
Because “The City of Your Final Destination” is such a delicate, slim story, it’s unfortunate that it comes bearing the baggage of being the first film veteran director James Ivory (“The Remains of the Day”) has made since the 2005 death of his longtime producing partner Ismail Merchant. But at the same time, that fact adds poignancy to the narrative. In fact, it’s impossible not to view “The City of Your Final Destination” as a sort of autumnal reverie for the kinds of smart, literate, measured films that were long synonymous with the “Merchant Ivory” brand.
Largely set at the family home in Uruguay, but in reality shot in nearby Argentina, “City of Your Final Destination” shares with most of Ivory’s films a sumptuous décor and sense of place, which is aided by cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe, costumer Carol Ramsey and production designer Andrew Sanders. But as is often the case in his films, “The City of Your Final Destination” presents a beautiful locale only to contrast it with the quiet misery of its inhabitants. At first, the idyllic Gund estate enchants Omar, but soon he realizes that these people’s avoidance of the outside world has created a claustrophobic, noxious atmosphere. Omar brings some life to the moribund Gunds – particularly Arden, who, as the youngest of the three Gund executors, craves human interaction – but the compound is haunted by the hidden resentments that have built up among Jules Gund’s surviving kin.
But while the film hums with quiet resignation, longtime Ivory collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s screenplay has difficulty building much suspense out of Omar’s (as well as Arden’s and Adam’s) attempts to win over Caroline about the possibility of a biography. Instead, “The City of Your Final Destination” is more of a leisurely set of scenes provoked by Omar’s invasion into this cloistered estate, which prompts plenty of conversations between the extended Gund family as they grapple with their past and worry about their future. Perhaps the most memorable interactions are those between Omar and Arden, who feel an undeniable romantic spark, partly based on their shared temperament. But considering that the film’s stakes feel so low, the resolutions aren’t particularly momentous, although Ivory does manage to find just the right note for the film’s casually ironic coda.
With such a breezy, introspective film, good performances are paramount, and “The City of Your Final Destination” has several strong ones. It’s a great relief to report that Hopkins finally shows some restraint after a recent series of hammy turns in mainstream films, giving a touching performance as the affable yet despairing Adam. At first Linney seems to be overdoing Caroline’s iciness, but she grows into the role’s complexity as the film moves along. Playing a timid character can be a difficult proposition, but Metwally manages to convey Omar’s sweaty desperation to complete his biography and stave off the demands of the so-called real world. Gainsbourg and Lara have to contend with characters who are a bit one-dimensional, but Gainsbourg’s warm ingénue and Lara’s domineering Deirdre superbly represent different romantic objects of desire for Omar, who has traveled to Uruguay for a book but may end up with something more meaningful.



Anthony Hopkins (Adam)
Laura Linney (Caroline)
Charlotte Gainsbourg (Arden)
Omar Metwally (Omar)
Hiroyuki Sanada (Pete)
Alexandra Maria Lara (Deirdre)
Norma Aleandro (Mrs. Van Euwen)
Ambar Mallman (Portia)
Norma Argentina (Alma)
Luciano Suardi (Doctor Pereira)
A Screen Media Films release of a Merchant Ivory Productions presents a film by James Ivory
Producers: Paul Bradley, Pierre Proner
Executive Producers: Ashok Amritraj, Vincent Mai, James Martin, Katsuhiko Yoshida
Director: James Ivory
Screenplay: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (based on the novel by Peter Cameron)
Cinematography: Javier Aguirresarobe
Editor: John David Allen
Music: Jorge Drexler
Production designer: Andrew Sanders
Running time: 118 minutes