The Carer (2016)

Acclaimed actor Brian Cox channels his inner King Lear in The Carer, directed by Hungarian János Edelényi.

Shakespearean not Stirred

by Alexa Dalby

The Carer

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

The Carer stars Brian Cox in a part that fits him like a glove. As Sir Michael Gifford he plays an ageing thespian, now retired to his palatial country estate and raging against the indignities of old age and his Parkinson’s disease. He’s a legend thanks to his many star turns on stage, on television and in films but he now has to endure humiliating days when he loses control of his bowels. He’s irascible, cantankerous and his behaviour makes him impossible to live with until his exasperated daughter (Emilia Fox) foists a new carer on him. Improbably, she’s a young Hungarian refugee who is also an aspiring actress, Dorottya (newcomer Coco Konig), The odd couple hit it off, bonding through the chemistry of youth and age and their ability to quote Shakespeare at each other. She’s the first carer to stick out what seems like a thankless task, thanks to her mix of good humour and passion for acting, much to the surprise of his housekeeper and still adoring former lover (Anna Chancellor) and his wry driver and former dresser (Karl Johnson).

While Cox gives a commanding performance in a meaty part that showcases his persona, it’s hard to see what is his carer’s attraction for him as, apart from her ability to quote Shakespeare, Konig’s performance as Dorottya seems rather flat. The other supporting characters are underwritten and seem rather one dimensional.

The Carer is directed by Hungarian János Edelényi, who also shares writing credits with the late Gilbert Adair and Tom Kinninmont. Underpinning it is the idea of the veteran Shakespearan actor representing a modern King Lear figure, a metaphor that’s blatant when he and Dorottya perform a scene together as Lear and Cordelia.

Cox gives a swan-song speech as Gifford when he unexpectedly makes an appearance at an awards ceremony to crown his career – where there’s a video cameo from Sir Roger Moore. The obviously heartfelt speech was apparently written by Cox. As well as quoting from a variety of Shakespeareana, it is a full-blast defiance of old age and celebration of the human condition. Though the film is predictable and rather unsubtle, it’s worth watching for Cox’s virtuoso performance.

The Carer is released on 5 August 2016 in the UK.

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