Title – The Old Man Who Read Love Stories (2001)
Director – Rolf de Heer (Bad Boy Bubby)
Cast – Richard Dreyfuss, Hugo Weaving, Timothy Spall, Cathy Tyson
Plot – Adapted from the novel written by Luis Sepulveda, the film centres around Antonio Bolivar (Dreyfuss) an old man living out his life on the harsh waters of the Amazon River. When a jaguar with a taste for human blood starts to terrorize the region however Antonio must trek out with a group of volunteers and hunt the animal down in what is a hunt that brings about many a memory in an old man that’s life was filled with many joys and many heartaches.
“My name is Antonio Bolivar and I am here to capture your courage”
Review by Eddie on 21/02/2014
An under-seen and under-rated gem of a movie, I had the great pleasure of seeing The Old Man Who Read Love Stories when I was but a young boy and it’s a film that stuck with me for many years thanks to subtle power, striking imagery and a performance from Richard Dreyfuss that surely must be the most fully formed of his career. I had an even greater pleasure recently where I was able to attend a screening of The Old Man and a Q and A with its legendary Australian director Rolf de Heer that reaffirmed to me what a classic film this is.
The making and release of The Old Man was one fraught with many different challenges both in a crew sense and also a release sense. Sitting on the shelf unjustly for more than 3 years The Old Man once available to the public was a film that divided the critics and audiences alike but for those willing to be swept up in the tale of journeyman Antonio Bolivar it was an absolute joy to be a part of. The Old Man is in no way a typical point A to point B movie and the structure of the films flashbacks (going hand in hand with our lead’s fractured life and memories) are in no way done in the usual moviemaking fashion. These elements of originality and decision making by director De Heer are just some of the reasons though that make the film just a diamond in the rough.
As mentioned in the opening paragraph Richard Dreyfuss has never been better than he is here. In a role that was originally intended for Sir Ian McKellan and down the line Morgan Freeman and Sir Ben Kingsley, Dreyfuss is captivating and heartbreaking as our wounded soul. It’s a character that is filled to the brim with hidden mysteries that slowly begin to unravel as the movie progresses and although the town folk he deals with (including the “slimy toad” mayor played by the ever creepy Timothy Spall and the roguish dentist played by Hugo Weaving) treat him perhaps as a man that knows little, he is in fact a man that has loved, lost and lived like the best of them. The journey Antonio takes to track a vengeful jaguar is a journey that is not only a physical trek but an emotional trek and one where the film’s softly spoken power comes from as Antonio internally deals with his past triumphs and past losses.
Filmed beautifully, scored thoughtfully and acted wonderfully by its cast, The Old Man is a film that is worthy to be tracked down and to be taken away by. With the right marketing and proper treatment one gets the feeling that the film would have been a major player at awards seasons the world over but sometimes a film is more than physical awards and plaudits and the Old Man’s true gift is the one it gives to us the watchers and admirers.
5 dentist related bets out of 5