Canadian director Matt Bissonnette's obsession with the music of the legendary Leonard Cohen is well-known among movie buffs. What is not so well-known is his determination to introduce Cohen’s music into nearly every film that he makes. This time it’s like two legends being honoured at the same time.
There is, of course, the music of Cohen that carpets the dark tale of a fall and redemption. The songs that appear with the imperativeness that we saw in Mama Mia were the reason d’etre was the music of Abba. Death Of A Ladies Man is much more serious stuff. It stars the Irish legend Gabriel Byrne returning to form after long as a man so drunk in his fame and fortune that he forgets to connect with those who matter, his son, who wants to tell Dad he‘s gay, for one, and his daughter, who wants her father to know she’s unhappy. For another.
But does Samuel O’Shea care? A rude wakeup call in the form of a cancer diagnosis (really, death and disease can be so predictable in the movies) sends Samuel reeling and stumbling back to his roots in Ireland (fetchingly photographed nu Jonathan Cliff) where he has his first meaningful relationship in a long time with a beautiful shop owner (Jessica Pare) who may or not exist outside Samuel’s hallucinatory hemisphere.
All this sounds far better in theory than it is in execution. The film looks at Samuel’s life coming undone in a series of illustrative vignettes which are far less interesting to watch than they should be. In the beginning, we see Samuel barging in on his cheating wife. He decides to divorce her and move on …. Where to, is the question.
Samuel’s tired jaded decadent life allows him to go nowhere he really wants to. The dead-end feeling is well-projected by Byrne who is every inch the emotionally and physically washed-out trainwreck of a man. It is clear that man, a writer with a block in his head (literally!) has not bothered to keep up with his relationships.
When he gets to know he is ill, Byrne’s Samuel makes belated redemptive moves, alas marred by his medical condition which makes Samuel ‘see’ women with tiger’s heads (I kid you not) and facilitates an ongoing conversation with his dead father (Brian Gleeson).
Death Of A Ladies' Man is a film that never quite takes off. It has its eyes set on a high moral ground where it never quite reaches. Maybe it’s the protagonist’s failure to do so. Because as an actor Gabriel Byrne certainly never fails to play the failure with ferocious passion.
Directed by Matt Bissonnette, Death Of A Ladies' Man gets 2 and a half stars.
Image source: IMDb