Elegy


Directed by: Isabel Coixet
Written by:Nicholas Meyer
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Penelope Cruz, Dennis Hopper, Patricia Clarkson, Peter Sarsgaard, Deborah Harry
Released: April 9, 2009
Grade: A

I’ve always liked the term "carpe diem" - a Latin term which is commonly translated into "seize the day". These were the thoughts I had walking out of the cinema after seeing Elegy, the new film from Spanish director Isabel Coixet (My Life Without Me, The Secret Life Of Words). Time is precious and we should make the most of it.

Before I get too melodramatic, let me explain why this film is so great. It’s the story of David Kepesh (Kingsley), a 62-year-old literary professor living in Manhattan. I’ll cut to the chase and say that he loves women. He really loves women. David has seduced and slept with countless beauties throughout his life. He was married once but it didn’t really suit his free-loving lifestyle.

Talking to a friend, David makes the comment that "the biggest surprise in a man’s life is old age". It’s a realisation that he’s struggling to deal with. He’s not as active, not as virile as he once was. I’d be interested to know what you make of David. Will you see him as a sleazy womaniser finally getting what he deserves? Or will you feel sorry for this lonely, insecure man and hope that he can find true love in the later years of his life? It’s a terrific two-sided performance from Ben Kingsley who ensures the character’s complexities are fully illustrated.

David’s eyes are currently fixated by a 24-year-old Cuban who is taking one of his classes. Her name is Consuela (Cruz). David has a rule of not getting involved with his students… while they’re still his students. And so, he makes his move at a special graduation party which he throws each year in his own home. His charms easily win over Consuela and she agrees to accompany him to an upcoming play.

Soon enough, a passionate relationship develops. They spend every moment they can together. Where is this heading, however? David realises he his falling in love with Consuela but doubts and jealousies are clouding his mind. With a massive age difference between them, he’s worried that she’ll leave him for someone her own age. He subsequently becomes possessive and controlling of Consuela’s behaviour.

There are no car chases, no vampires and no toilet jokes in Elegy. This is a heavy, powerful exploration of two people and the relationship that they share. I know it won’t set the box-office alight but I found it to be a credibly moving film. Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast) and Penelope Cruz (Vicky Christina Barcelona) deserve every piece of praise they have already received.

Based on the novel by Philip Roth novel, Elegy is one of the finest romantic dramas that I’ve seen in some time.