Love and Death on Long Island (1997) **** Bfi Player

May 9th, 2020
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Richard Kwietniowski | Cast: John Hurt, Jason Priestley, Sheila Hancock |  drama, Canada, UK 93′

John Hurt is the reason to watch this inventive social satire set in Nova Scotia, Canada. Age almost always trumps beauty if the older party has style and charisma – and Hurt has this in spades when he plays a raddled English writer who falls under the spell of an American teen-movie star in the shape of Jason Priestly in Richard Kwietniowski’s award-wining sophomore drama, which he adapts with wit and verve from the novel by Gilbert Adair.

Crumpled but confident widower Giles De’Ath (Hurt) is long in the tooth, but totally naive to the newfound gadgets of modern life such as the latest TV and video scene. He discovers the good-looking young actor Ronnie Bostock (Priestley) who is setting the night of fire for teenage viewers (a kind of poor man’s version of Timothée Chalamet), and who opens his eyes to all kinds of wonderful possibilities when Giles accidentally buys a cinema ticket to the wrong screening: “This isn’t E.M Forster!” he exclaims, but he is transfixed to his seat by the appearance on screen of Ronnie Bostock in a film called . “Hotpants College 2,”.

Giles is smitten and gradually works his way through the Bostok ‘ouevre’ in his local video stores, including such outing as “TexMex”, emerging as a rather scuzzy upperclass roué. Eventually he sets off across the pond in search of his unlikely crush whom he tracks down near the Hamptons.

Ronnie awakens Giles’ own desires and broadens his horizons as a muse who also stands to benefit from the connection. Like most great relationships – it offers a win win opportunity that beats as it sweeps – Ronnie benefitting from Giles’ superior knowledge with a chance to brush up his own credentials; his girlfriend Audrey (Lowei) completing the trio.

The film widens into a social commentary on America with its modern day gods: trainers and takeaway pizzas; and the detail is so accurate it actually adds to the dramatic heft. But when Ronnie eventually appears in the flesh, he pales in comparison to Giles’ suave elan –  and it’s here that Hurt’s superior acting skills also gain the upper hand – exposing their different worlds with startling clarity, but providing much mirth into the bargain. MT



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