I’m Going Home is a rarity, a film about old age that is neither a celebration or lament of the achievements or failures of lost youth, nor an anticipation of impending death, but simply an unsentimental meditation on the ambiguous present, on aimlessness, isolation, and infirmity.
From nonagenarian writer-director Manoel de Oliveira, who’s been making movies for over seven decades, comes a sad, thoughtful character study of an aging French actor named Gilbert Valence (Michel Piccoli). On stage, in productions of Ionesco’s Exit the King and Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Valence gives impressive readings of the dramatic death-speeches of aged protagonists; but his own words in a key moment of frailty and finality, though equally haunting, are much more prosaic and anticlimactic.
Deliberately paced, lacking narrative momentum, I’m Going Home captures the low-key rhythms of Valence’s routine-bound existence in the months after a tragic accident leaves him a widower with an orphaned grandson. But when an American filmmaker (John Malkovich) approaches him to play Buck Mulligan in an adaptation of Joyce’s Ulysses, there comes a shattering moment of truth, and what his existence will be after that is unclear both to us and to him.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.