The Carer review: A twinkly-eyed national treasure on top form
Film review: The Carer

Matthew Turner reviews British drama The Carer, starring Brian Cox as an elderly Shakespearean actor suffering from Parkinson's disease

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A reclusive, elderly actor suffering from Parkinson’s befriends his younger carer, who is also an aspiring actress

Director: Janos Edelenyi
Starring: Brian Cox, Coco Konig, Anna Chancellor, Emilia Fox, Karl Johnson, Andrew Havill
Genre: Drama
Country: UK
Release date: August 5, 2016
Cert: 15
Running time: 89 mins

Co-written by the late author and critic Gilbert Adair, this British comedy-drama belongs to a burgeoning sub-genre about wheelchair-bound characters and their carers that includes Inside I’m Dancing (2004), French box-office smash Untouchable (2011), Jaques Audiard’s Rust and Bone (2012) and, more recently, chick-lit-adapted romance Me Before You (2016), which saw Game of Thrones’ Emelia Clarke falling for paralysed-from-the-neck-down Sam Clafin.

It’s a solid entry too, enlivened by a enjoyable central performance from national treasure Brian Cox, who seizes the opportunity to turn the twinkly-eyed factor up to eleven.

Cox is on terrific form

Cox plays Sir Michael Gifford, an elderly Shakespearean actor who’s suffering from late-stage Parkinson’s disease while cooped up in his country estate.

Having already seen off several candidates due to his excessively crotchety ways, he softens considerably when he meets young Hungarian carer Dorottya (Coco Konig), who’s also an aspiring actress.

Together, the pair concoct a secret plan to attend a ceremony where Sir Michael is due to receive a lifetime achievement award, but they repeatedly clash with his exasperated daughter (Emilia Fox) and his long-serving secretary-slash-former-lover (Anna Chancellor), who become increasingly suspicious of Dorottya’s motives.

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Cox is on terrific form as the crotchety old thespian who seemingly has a Shakespeare quote for every occasion, up to and including an undignified bowel-movement-related incident.

Similarly, Konig delivers an extremely sweet performance, even if her own acting ability doesn’t quite match that of her character – at any rate, her gradually evolving relationship with Cox is genuinely touching.

Resonant themes

The film is bolstered further by a strong supporting cast, who allow their characters to feel lived-in and believable, particularly Chancellor, who brings a palpable sense of a shared history to her scenes with Cox (on a similar note, Edelenyi also makes judicious use of a very early onscreen Cox performance).

In addition, the script is peppered with funny lines and manages to work in a number of thoughtful literary, theatrical and cinematic references without feeling overly pretentious, as well as exploring a number of resonant themes, such as the treatment of the elderly and the maddening afflictions of old age.

That said, the dialogue occasionally feels a little forced (most notably when Sir Michael insists on calling Dorottya ‘Tortilla’ or ‘Burrito’) and the plot could have used a little more in the way of drama – it’s fair to say that the awards ceremony climax doesn’t quite have the feelgood impact the filmmakers intended.

Worth seeing?

Though relatively small in scale and ambition, this is an engaging and sweetly observed comedy-drama that’s worth seeing for Cox’s performance.


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