The Carer

Jul 5, 2016 | Posted by in 2016, EIFF
EIFF 2016

Brian Cox stars as a retired Shakespearean actor suffering from ill health in his old age and pining for the glory days while people tend to his every need in János Edelényi’s The Carer.

There are certainly other people in Sir Michael Gifford’s (Brian Cox) life as we see throughout the film but the majority of the focus is on how he relates to his main carer Dorottya (Coco König). It’s a really interesting relationship that develops organically as the film progresses.

I would say the main hurdle this film has to overcome is why Dorottya would be the one to cut through the stubbornness and abrasive attitude to form a meaningful connection when so many other carers have failed. The film does a good job by making it abundantly clear that this relationship works because Dorottya challenges him. There’s a sense that people pander to Sir Michael because of his reputation but Dorottya treats him like both a patient and a human being depending on the needs of the situation.

The CarerWe spend a lot of time with these two characters as they interact in really fascinating ways. On one level Dorottya has to do a job and definitely does it but she is also in awe of the man because of his legendary reputation and looks at her current employment as an opportunity to learn a lot about the craft of acting. When in the presence of a master who wouldn’t take advantage of that?

The film is fairly light on plot but it’s hardly noticeable because the details of Sir Michael’s relationship with Dorottya are so fascinating. It felt very real and the way that Sir Michael softened around her as the narrative progresses definitely contributes to that.

Brian Cox delivers his best performance in a long time. Sir Michael seems to be the perfect fit for him especially at this stage in his career. Cox has gained a lot of respect as an actor so I imagine it was easy to channel that into his performance here and deliver something that feels believable. He’s very much a legend in acting so it’s not too far of a stretch. His gruff exterior is fairly endearing because his performance suggests that there’s passion and kindness just beneath the surface.

One of the major themes is the loss of dignity and it is Cox’s performance that sells that notion. It’s easy to see that losing control of his own bodily functions is a personal embarrassment to him and his standoffish nature is very much a defence mechanism to maintain whatever dignity he thinks he has left.

Dorottya cuts through that and treats him with the respect that he deserves but also isn’t afraid to call him out when he takes things too far. Coco König does a capable job in the role and bounces off Cox nicely. She is a newcomer and conducts herself very well. There is definitely a language barrier that trips her up some of the time but it’s difficult to fault her performance. She has plenty of chemistry with Cox and that’s the important thing here.

There is a tendency for the film to repeat what has already been well established to the point that it feels like the narrative is spinning its wheels a bit. The ending also comes across as a little self indulgent and goes on a little too long but other than that everything hangs together very well.

Verdict

A fascinating character piece with an excellent performance from Brian Cox. The relationship between his character and his carer is really well established and progresses organically as the film progresses. It’s very light on plot but that’s barely noticeable considering the strong character work. There is a bit of repetition here and there and a self indulgent ending that goes on too long but it is very worth a watch despite the minor flaws.

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