Leonard Cohen sets the mood for this film. It is full of his music, poetry and ideas – and the central character played by Gabriel Byrne is one of his best performances.
Samuel O’Shea (Byrne) is a middle aged professor of literature in a Montreal university. He is a womaniser who has seen better days, with a drinking problem.
When his second marriage ends he starts to have frequent fantastic and bizarre hallucinations, often when his father (who looks youthful, having died when he was quite young) acts as a sort of ghostly spiritual guide.
It becomes difficult for him to distinguish between fantasy and real life. Strange things happen – ice hockey players turn into figure skaters, Frankenstein’s monster joins him at a bar, and he is served by a transgender person with the head of a tiger.
A doctor diagnoses him as having a large inoperable brain tumour and he has to confront his mortality. He moves to a remote beach house on the Irish coast to write the novel he had always intended. There he meets and falls in love with a young woman, and makes peace with his family.
Canadian director/writer Matt Bissonnette (Looking for Leonard) frequently uses the literary and musical work of Leonard Cohen. He says that “he likes the sound of his voice and the way his songs are put together, and he thinks he is pretty funny. And at the darkest moment some of the funniest things happen”.
This is a fascinating and absorbing film which is sometimes confusing and sometimes funny. It is often not possible to tell fantasy from real life, and very occasionally the Irish accent is difficult to follow.
The casting and cinema photography are excellent – and Leonard Cohen fans will love it.
Now showing at Luna Leederville, Windsor, Nedlands and Luna SX.
Watch the trailer…