Rory’s Way a.ka. The Etruscan Smile (12A) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis, US, 2018, 107 mins, in English/Scottish Gaelic with subtitles

Cast:  Brian Cox, JJ Feild, Thora Birch, Rosanna Arquette

Review by Carol Allen

Rory (Brian Cox) is living out his final years in a small Hebridean community, where his main entertainment is a daily nude dip in the icy sea and keeping up a family feud with his neighbour Campbell (Clive Russell), which goes back to 1764. 

Rory is unwell but determined to outlive Campbell, he reluctantly agrees to go stay with his estranged son Ian (JJ Feild) in San Francisco and seek medical treatment there.  Initially he finds the American lifestyle – all health fads and theories – and his American daughter-in-law Emily (Thora Birch) tricky to relate to but he quickly bonds with his tiny grandson Jamie, played by two naturally talented tots called Aero Kapow and Echo Boom Epps, who steal every scene their character is in.   Rory also finds a bit of late life romance in form of museum curator Claudia (Rosanna Arquette).

This is a good old-fashioned laughter and tears human story of the main character’s redemption through family love, which is saved from cliché by really likeable performances.  It is freely adapted from a novel by Spanish writer José Luis Sampedro, which was originally set in post war Italy, with co-directors Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis, making their first feature on the back of an award winning short.

It is perhaps slightly puzzling that Scottish Rory goes to San Francisco for medical treatment as we have, for the moment at least, a very good National Health Service here, but that was probably to do with the way the film was financed – American money with some input from Scotland, perhaps acquired by making the main character Scottish.

The ever reliable Brian Cox brings weight and an endearing sense of humour to the role of Rory, with strong support from Birch and particularly Feild as his son.  Years ago Field was a very believable version of the young Michael Caine in Fred Schepisi’s Last Orders.  He now has a rather spooky resemblance to Tom Hiddleston.  Arquette, still beautiful as she nears sixty, is both charming and feisty as Rory’s age appropriate love interest and though the story is pretty predictable, it has a lot of charm with Cox and Feild also putting a bit iron into its soul.