The Parting Glass (3 stars)

The Parting Glass

EIFF 2018: Impressively scripted and deeply felt drama that reunites the stars of True Blood

'It's like a community theatre production of No Exit,' offers theatre director Danny (Denis O'Hare) as he surveys the grim catalogue of events that envelop his fellow mourners in The Parting Glass, a drama written by O'Hare and directed by Stephen Moyer. Together with co-star Anna Paquin, O'Hare and Moyer are best known for their contributions to TV's vampire romp True Blood, and The Parting Glass aspires to a more serious level of drama.

Coleen (Paquin) has passed away, and Danny leads a group of family members to the house where she lived and died. Amongst them are her ex-husband Karl (Rhys Ifans) and patriarch Tommy (Edward Asner), plus bickering sisters Mare (Cynthia Nixon) and Al (Melissa Leo). A series of delays en route open up old wounds, provoking fresh flashbacks as they struggle to reconcile their memory of Coleen with her sudden, unexpected death.

It takes almost an hour of The Parting Glass to get to Coleen's home, a purgatory for the characters much like Sartre's aforementioned play, but also hard-going for audiences. The acting is uniformly strong, but the characters rocket constantly between grief and hysteria as the soundtrack switches from sad piano to lilting cheer, with few truly reflective moments. Only Danny is given any space for mourning, but an extended bittersweet coda referencing Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard feels like one theatrical reference too many.

A closing dedication suggests that The Parting Glass is semi-autobiographical on O'Hare's part. It's clearly a deeply felt piece, and there's certainly some smart observation, particularly in Asner's Tommy: tight of purse, resentful of bad language and with his ear permanently glued to his phone. O'Hare's writing is often excellent; it's a shame that his depiction of a tightly-wound family often feels closer to theatre than cinema.

Screening as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018. General release TBC.

The Parting Glass

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • US
  • 15
  • Directed by: Stephen Moyer
  • Cast: Ed Asner, Rhys Ifans, Cynthia Nixon, Melissa Leo, Anna Paquin

After the death of Coleen (Paquin), her family goes to her house and old wounds are opened up on the way. Stagey family drama which is obviously heartfelt; O’Hare’s writing is often excellent, but it sometimes seems close to theatre than to cinema.