Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Longing, Starring Richard Gere

Presumably, it is profoundly too late for Daniel Bloch to be a father to his son, but at least the kid will not judge him too harshly. Allen Hilu is beyond Gen Z griping, having perished in a car crash. Bloch’s ex only now informed him of the truth. Despite the tragic circumstances, Bloch tries to find fatherly ways to help his late son—and maybe there is something he can do in director-screenwriter Savi Gabizon’s English-language remake of his Award-winning Israeli film Longing, which releases this Friday in theaters.

Rachel understood Bloch had his reasons for not wanting children, so she never told him when she left town, pregnant with his son. After Hilu’s death, she figures he ought to know the truth, which leaves him speechless. Bloch not only travels to Canada for the funeral, he then takes it upon himself to learn about the son he never knew. He meets the girlfriend Hilu maybe took for granted and Ms. Alice, the pretty French teacher for whom the teen apparently developed an unhealthy romantic obsession.

Steadily, Bloch uncovers the good and the bad, but he usually takes his son’s side, especially with regards to Ms. Alice. He finds some small but meaningful ways to keep his son’s memory alive, which Rachel and her husband appreciate. However, they are skeptical of his suggestion to arrange a posthumous marriage (in accordance with traditional Chinese customs) with Elizabeth Harris, a beautiful teen suicide, whose bereaved father Bloch regularly encounters in the cemetery.

There are a lot of awkward implications to this scheme, but to his credit, Gabizon’s screenplay never shies away from addressing them. It is perhaps a dubious idea, especially for parents who do not subscribe to such beliefs, but if it gives consolation, who’s to judge?

There is indeed a deeply honest and humanistic stream running through
Longing. Gabizon never makes it easy for any of his characters, least of all Bloch, whom Gere portrays with extraordinary sensitivity. Gere has a scene relatively early in the film, explaining why he resolved never to have children, because of the abuse he suffered from his father, which is truly devastating. Gere is still a huge movie star, at the peak of his powers, so it is a crime he does not appear in more high-profile releases.

Longing could very well be the victim of review-bombing and trolling two times over. In addition to Gere’s well-documented support for the Dalai Lama and Tibetan culture (making him persona non grata with the CCP and their netizens stooges), Longing was adapted from an Israeli film by the original Israeli filmmaker. It would be a shame if the forces of darkness attacked a heartfelt film like Longing, but it is probably inevitable.

Gere is terrific, but so is Suzanne Clement as Rachel. Plus, Kevin Hanchard and Larry Day have some heartbreaking moments of their own, as Hilu’s stepfather Robert and Harris’s grieving father Jacob. As a bonus, Owen Pallett’s distinctive jazz-influenced soundtrack (featuring the composer and Johnny Spence on piano) reinforces the sad but sophisticated vibe.

Longing would make a fitting pairing with Gere’s 1994 film Intersection, in which his character’s wife and mistress wonder who he was rushing to when he had his fateful accident. Recommended for the power of several performances (definitely including Gere’s), Longing opens this Friday (6/7) in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Town CenterLaemmle Town Center.