EIFF 2016 – The Correspondence (Giuseppe Tornatore)

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In this odd otherworldly love story post-grad astrophysics student and part time movie stunt performer Amy Ryan (Olga Kurylenko) is having an affair with her much older tutor Professor Ed Phoerum (Jeremy Irons).  First seen in an anonymous hotel room with a grunting Irons looking like he’s about to launch into some of the erotic manoeuvres from Louis Malle’s Damages (1992), they then go their separate ways making sure nobody sees them. Ed is married with a grown-up daughter (Shauna MacDonald) and a young son, but the two still communicate every day though by text or Skype. Ed seems paternalistic, not surprising given the considerable age difference, but Irons & Kurylenko remain convincing as lovers because her character is clearly looking for a father figure and he’s still a handsome chap.

Suddenly Ed disappears from her life, keeping in touch with Amy only through cryptic messages by text, email, or DVD recordings sent by courier. She travels to his hometown of Edinburgh (posh Scot, no need for an accent) to find out more about his absence. There are little moments that appear to be supernatural portents, a Labrador dog who approaches her in a park and seems to be trying to communicate something, a leaf banging repeatedly against her window, endless talk of parallel worlds and other selves, but the truth behind’s Ed’s absence may be something altogether simpler.

This could just as easily have been a thriller about a controlling male tormenting his lover and to be fair the film does address these concerns towards the end, but the overall mood is romantic and it just about hangs together. As with Tornatore’s last film 2014’s  The Best Offer (which felt like an upmarket version of a giallo), The Correspondence is flawed but fascinating. Scenes of Amy performing elaborate action movie scenes seem incongruous until the stunts begin to mirror her emotional state of mind. Ennio Morricone’s score helps matters, the use of electric guitar in one long recurring suite recalls Local Hero (1983, Bill Forsyth), another Scottish set film which used the landscape to magical effect.

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