Rory's Way




That fine actor Brian Cox stars in a film unlikely to win critical approval.

Rory's Way

Brian Cox


As it happens the source of this film is a best-selling novel written by the late José Luis Sampedro in Spanish and published in 1985. But for that, one might have thought that this tale about an elderly man coming to terms with his family, including a son whom he has not seen for fifteen years, was computer-generated in response to a request to come up with a foolproof formula for a popular film without regard for what critics might say about it. What has emerged is an English language piece no longer set in Europe but taking place mainly in San Francisco when 74-year-old Rory MacNeil (Brian Cox) travels there to meet his son Ian (JJ Feild), once a chemist but now a chef, his American daughter-in-law, Emily (Thora Birch), and their baby  son Jamie.


A prologue in Scotland touches on an old feud between the MacNeils and the Campbells which establishes a humorous tone and this is carried over to Rory's disapproval of the modern childcare methods applied to Jamie. Before long he is promoting the need to raise a child to be manly. Similarly, he wants Ian to be more assertive and not to rely on support for his restaurant from Emily's rich father (Treat Williams). Together with this emphasis on being macho, there is an echo of the urge to resist conventional materialism in favour of embracing individuality that was central to Toni Erdmann (2016).


However, Rory's Way is no arthouse film and in seeking popularity it shifts tone to confirm that Rory is dying of cancer. Nevertheless, there will be time for him to win over his estranged son and to play a crucial role in his grandson's early days as the child learns to talk. Not only that but he can attract a woman about fifteen years his junior (Rosanna Arquette), their romantic rapport underlining the film's Forrest Gump-style mantra "Do what you love while you can". The only novel touch in Rory's Way is the fact that at times it incorporates dialogue in Gaelic with subtitles. However, it is this element which allows Rory to delight language researchers in San Francisco by talking in Gaelic about the appeal of women's breasts and about just how good he is in the sack!


Nothing at all in the film seems believable, so it's sad that the splendid Brian Cox with his great screen presence should be squandering his time on such material. Even so, there may be audiences so eager to escape from their own worries that they will uncritically embrace this tale which transforms a dysfunctional family into a perfect one and which ends exactly as you knew it would with a scene awash in sentimentality: for such viewers Rory's Way will leave them in tears even as they exit the cinema proclaiming "It was lovely".




Cast: Brian Cox, JJ Feild, Thora Birch, Peter Coyote, Tim Matheson, Emanuel Cohn, Clive Russell, Josh Stamberg, Treat Williams, Rosanna Arquette, Oliver Aero, Kappow Epps, Elliot Echo, Boom Epps.


Dir Mihal Brezis and Oded Binnun, Pro Arthur Cohn, Screenplay Michael McGowan, Michal Lali Kagan and Sarah Bellwood, based on the novel La sunrisa etrusca (The Etruscan Smile) by José Luis Sampedro, Ph Javier Aguirresarobe, Pro Des Sue Chan, Ed Roberto Silvi, Music Frank Ifman, Costumes Mary Claire Hannan.


Arthur Cohn-Parkland Pictures.
107 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 31 May 2019. Cert. 12A.