Cast : Penelope Cruz, Ben Kingsley
Direction : Isabel Coixet
Rating : ***
Quite clearly, this adult drama based on Philip Roth’s 2001 novella The Dying Animal conveys the author’s ruminations on love, desire and mortality.
In a sombre voice-over narration, a 60-something professor of literature (Kingsley) reflects on his dalliance with a Cuban-American student (Cruz) more than 30 years his junior. For the first time in decades, the ageing professor feels insecure, even suffering pangs of jealousy for his beautiful new conquest.
On her part, the young woman tries to get the serial seducer to commit to a long-term relationship, but in vain. The two separate only to reunite a couple of years later for a concluding segment which, unfortunately, is as pat as it is pretentious.
The direction by the little-known Spanish helmer Coixet (My Life Without Me) is competent enough. She also makes judicious use of the music of Bach, Vivaldi and Erik Satie. Perhaps if the plot wasn’t cluttered with ceaseless chatter, the May-December romance could have been much more poignant and credible.
Impressive performances are notched up by Ben Kingsley, Patricia Clarkson as his long-time lover and Dennis Hopper as his squash partner-cum-buddy. Needless to emphasise, it’s Penelope Cruz’s show all the way. The Latino beauty is absolutely hypnotic; never mind that there is very little chemistry between her and Sir Ben. Recommended viewing.