Film Review: ‘A Long Way from Home’

Opening to a glorious, sun-dappled French townscape before setting the tone of things to come with a clumsy, crossword led allusion to Joanna Hogg’s vaguely comparable upper middle-class drama Archipelago (2011), debut director Virginia Gilbert’s existential exploration of expat life, A Long Way from Home (2013), actually has far more in common with Roger Michell’s Le Week-End (2013). Here, James Fox and Brenda Fricker are the sniping British couple growing old uncomfortably, whose lives are complicated by the introduction of a young, holidaying couple, played by Natalie Dormer and Paul Nicholls.

Succeeding where Le Week-End’s Nick and Meg may well have failed, Joseph (Fox) and Brenda (Fricker) have realised their dream of leaving the hustle and bustle of London life for the warmer climes of Southern France. Retired if perhaps not quite re-energised, the married pair while away their days reading newspapers, visiting local places of interest and dining out at classy restaurants. It seems, however, that Joseph isn’t quite as contented as first thought, especially when he and Brenda make the chance acquaintance of the attractive Suzanne (Dormer) and dynamic Mark (Nicholls). Instantly drawn to Suzanne, Joseph finds himself questioning his current situation and his remaining years with Brenda.

Fox, in a rare leading man role, is arguably the standout although there’s not a great deal here to really get the juices flowing aside from some arresting scenery. Unlike Michell’s Le Week-End, there’s precious little brevity to lighten the mood, whilst a scene involving a stricken cat may well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for the large majority. Much like its central married couple, A Long Way from Home often feels tired and over-familiar, only occasionally sparking into life when Joseph and Suzanne find time away from their suffocating other halves. Although it would be unfair to criticise a debut feature – especially an independent British offering – too harshly, when you have the likes of Hogg, Michell and Mike Leigh already excelling at cinematic representations of upper middle-class malaise, there’s little room for this sort of functional mediocrity.

Daniel Green