Cast: Susan Sarandon, Christopher Plummer
Direction: Paolo Barzman
Rating: ** ½
Here's yet another addition to the ever-burgeoning number of Holocaust-themed dramas. A shade too-solemn and slow-paced, Emotional Arithmetic is also a rare instance of a Canadian film making it to our multiplexes.
Oozing good intentions, the unduly verbose script makes much ado about the late-life reunion between three survivors of the World War II death camps. Cut right-away to the mid-1980s. The camera glides down on a farmhouse on the outskirts of Quebec. The unexpected arrival of a childhood companion (Gabriel Bryne) brings back bittersweet memories for a middle-aged woman (Sarandon) teetering on the brink of a breakdown.
The plot starts simmering. It's not long, though, before the proceedings tip over into pretentiousness. Director Barzman (Time is Money) fails to provide psychological insight into the conflicted central character. Even the patience of her long-suffering husband (Plummer) is severely tested.
Moreover, the flashbacks--- filmed in black-and-white--- to the wartime internment tend to jar. Clearly, a moratorium on the indiscriminate use of the hoary device is in order. On the plus side, count the breathtaking bucolic backdrop and the performances by the formidable ensemble including Max Von Sydow as the ageing saviour.
Neither completely satisfying nor completely dismissible, …Arithmetic adds up to an engaging enough melodrama.