This British-Hungarian co-production may herald as its protagonist an ailing man unsteady on his feet, but The Carer is a rather twee romp that purposefully treads familiar ground with a predictability that will disinterest as many as it comforts. Set in a middle England county bearing a striking resemblance to Midsomer, the low production values, an overly contrived script and by-the-numbers plot mean that János Edelényi’s sophomore feature feels much like a made for Sunday evening TV movie. Reminiscent of both Dustin Hoffman’s Quartet and the enormously popular French tearjerker Intouchables, it tells of a renowned actor living out his years as a recluse due to failing health.
Unfortunately it achieves neither the twinkling geriatric humour of the former film nor emotional impact of the latter. Suffering the progressive indignities of Parkinsons, the cursing, bigoted curmudgeon (Brian Cox) has spurned a slew of caregivers before he hits it off with an aspiring Hungarian actress (newcomer Coco König). Having previously worked at the local old people’s home she is not averse to the more testing elements of the task at hand: the wiping of a backside, as Shakespearean sweet smelling roses are cited, is a moment of discomfort for all involved. After an initial frostiness they learn to appreciate one another, each learn lessons along the way and collectively end up all the better for it. After all, what octogenarian doesn’t want/need to be able to text “2B or not 2B, that is the ?” Oh dear. It’s a rote but effective formula that induces the odd smile here and there but little more.
The first line of Brian Cox’s dedicated Wikipedia page makes reference to the veteran Scottish actor’s work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, most notably his performances as King Lear. In The Carer his Sir Michael Gifford is a disgruntled thespian also famed for his portrayal of the Bard’s ill- fated monarch. It’s a decidedly hammy role, and amid watching reruns of much lauded turns the actor barks orders, expletives and thinly veiled racial slurs at the ever-patient and understanding Dorottya. But his condition and the fact he’s from that generation mean that such alarming intolerance is OK, right? His persistent, and seemingly deliberate, mis-remembering of her Eastern European nationality wears thin quickly, especially in a post-Brexit light where she’ll likely need a visa on the double.
Far from content to go quietly into that good night, Sir Michael contravenes the orders of an imperious daughter (Emilia Fox) and erstwhile lover/housekeeper (Anna Chancellor) in his desire to attend a ceremony of the Critics Guild in his honour. Will he? Won’t he? There are a few obstacles in the way but nothing he, Dorottya and long-time chauffeur, punching bag and submissive chum, Joseph (Karl Johnson), can’t overcome. A Roger Moore testimonial via video link ups the cheese stakes late on but a concluding speech belatedly affords Cox something profound to say. He signs off with aplomb but an eloquent epilogue isn’t enough to rescue what has gone before.
Matthew Anderson | @behind_theseens