The City of Your Final Destination Directed by: James Ivory
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Laura Linney, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Omar Metwally, Hiroyuki Sanada, Alexandra Maria Lara
Merchant Ivory Productions
Release Date: April 16, 2010 (Limited)
There are times in life when you will need to co-exist with many different people. On some occasions we might even find our own lives crossing paths with many other different lives. It is in these moments when we are able to experience the purest examples of human nature — the study of a stranger through conversation and observation, the first hints of attraction, our natural defenses toward those we’re unsure of, the birth of love — and not only form lifelong bonds with others, but also come to know ourselves better than ever before.
The City of Your Final Destination is about just such a fusion of many different lives and personalities. It tells the story of Omar (Omar Metwally), an academic who along with his girlfriend (Alexandra Maria Lara) are hoping to author a biography about the recently deceased Jules Gund. In order to write this book, however, they must gain the blessing of the family and loved ones that survive the late writer.
At first attempt, the family decides against a biography being written, and respectfully declines them the permission that they desire. Instead of giving up, Omar decides to travel to Uruguay by himself to try and change their minds. This brings him to Ocho Rios, a massive chunk of land consisting of thousands of acres with a couple of large houses right in the middle. When Omar arrives, he meets the odd group of souls who share this hidden world with each other. Jules Gund’s brother, Adam (Anthony Hopkins), quickly embraces Omar and informs him that he supports his biography wishes; Jules’ widow Caroline (Laura Linney) and his mistress Arden (Charlotte Gainsbourg) are against the biography; while Jules and Arden’s daughter Portia (Ambar Mallman) and Adam’s lover Pete (Hiroyuki Sanada) round out the rest of the group.
It does not take long for everyone to fall for Omar’s charm and accept him as a friend, but it is Caroline, while remaining quite civil and hospitable, who refuses to budge on her stance. This leads to Omar and everyone else figuring out how they can win her over and get this book about their beloved Jules written.
To me, watching The City of Your Final Destination didn’t even really feel like a movie. It actually felt a lot like I was watching someone’s personal home videos, sans for the shaky-cam quality, of course.
When Omar first arrives in Uruguay and Ocho Rios, you’re whisked off to this beautiful foreign land, and an almost Garden of Eden-like location where this strange and unique family lives together. And even though they’ve denied Omar’s request to write a biography, the fact that they’ve lived alone together in such seclusion for so long causes many of them to open right up to the stranger as if he’s been part of the family for years.
It’s this odd life scenario and this group of people that creates such an intriguing film. You have Caroline and Arden — Jules’ widow and mistress — living together civilly along with Arden’s young daughter, Portia, and they find a way to make it work. In the smaller house, Hopkins’ Adam character lives with his lover Pete, a 40-year-old Japanese man whom he had to legally adopt in order to bring him to the country. This seems creepy and awkward at first, and its origins may have been so, but while watching the movie, nothing about it seems strange. These two souls have been together for a long time, they’ve found what we all seek in another human being, and in this film it all comes across as a beautiful bond between two people.
The performances were all wonderful, but you don’t really need me to tell you this. When you have distinguished talents like Hopkins and Linney and Gainsbourg in your film, you’re going to get their best more often than not. I’m someone who’s always had trouble warming up to Linney as an actress, personally, but even in a stern and guarded role as she played here, I had no trouble seeing that Caroline was a good woman who has just carefully hidden herself away from the world. That’s the sign of a great performance.
I was also really happy to see Sanada spread his wings a little. As an actor, he’s done so much — especially in his native Japan (such as Ringu, which eventually became The Ring) — but I’m someone who has only really seen him in bad-ass and villainous roles like The Last Samurai, Sunshine, Rush Hour 3, and most recently on Lost. To see him in a sort of quiet and shy role like this was nice to see. This movie was actually filmed in 2007, so this “wing spreading” of his took place before a lot of what we Americans have seen, but nonetheless, it was a treat to see him in something so different.
This movie also has two of my favorite things in the world going for it: great music and stunning cinematography. It was so gorgeous to see and listen to, sometimes I found myself thinking it would have worked just as well in the silent film era. Without these two things, they would have had a much more difficult time setting this paradisaical world’s sedative and comforting tone.
The City of Your Final Destination is not a movie for everyone…not at all. If you’re the average movie fan, you’ll probably be bored within minutes. But if you’re someone who loves cinema and character studies reminiscent of classic films of the past, I would gladly recommend that you check this movie out as soon as you get the chance.