That Good Night
- Allan Hunter
- 7 May 2018
Sentimental drama from director Eric Styles, notable for John Hurt's final leading role
That Good Night is notable for featuring the last major screen role of the late Sir John Hurt. He is on typically commanding form as an elderly writer coming to terms with his impending death and seeking to make amends for past sins. Directed by Eric Styles, it is a modest affair, elevated by Hurt's commitment to the role. There is no vanity in a performance that reflects his own frailty and captures a sense of a once roaring lion mellowed by age and circumstances.
Hurt's Ralph Maitland is a celebrated screenwriter, living out his days in sun-dappled Portugal with long-suffering, eternally patient wife Anna (Sofia Helin). His last will and testament is made, his mind is set on a course of action and he invites his son Michael (Max Brown) to visit for a final attempt at reconciliation. Michael arrives with girlfriend Cassie (Erin Richards) and the warning that his imperious father was 'always generous with his money but never with his affections'.
The stage is set for a dysfunctional family to air its grievances and move forward. The result is a maudlin, rather predictable drama in which the plaintive musical score tugs at the heartstrings. Hurt gives it more bite, especially when Ralph bares his fangs with venom-tipped barbs and outrageous behaviour. He may have a terminal illness, but there are still glimmers of the selfish, insufferable figure he must have been in his prime.
The best scenes involve the appearance of Charles Dance dressed in white from top to toe as an angel of death figure, who might be a figment of Ralph's imagination, or be the representative for a mysterious euthanasia organisation. The cut and thrust of their conversations about matters of life and death add some depth to this otherwise sentimental final hurrah for a great screen actor.
Selected release from Fri 11 May.