Longing: A Nice Idea, Not A Great Story

The premise of Longing was interesting and promising- Daniel (Richard Gere), a middle-aged seemingly lonely business guy finds out he has a son with former Canadian lover, Rachel (Suzanne Clément). At a lover’s reunion, she informs him that she gave birth to his son 19 years ago and never told him about it- but here is the plot twist, their love child was in a horrific car accident and did not survive.

That is a lot of emotional whiplash in one sitting.

I did not enjoy this movie, not because of the plot but because of the poor execution. At it’s core, this movie is about grieving the unknown and trying to know how one should grieve (if at all) when discovering someone born from them is dead. I was very frustrated at first, because why tell him at all? How does that benefit his life? What is he to do with this information? These questions that feel like powerless scenarios are meant to be answered through Daniel’s response to this very peculiar situation, instead we get a weird series of events that elicit zero resolve.

The second question I found myself asking was- what the hell is wrong with this man and why did Writer/Director Savi Gabizon write his son to be so ridiculous? This film could have been an opportunity to explore the pitfalls of having a kid when one is ill-prepared and too young. The consequence of Daniel and Suzanne’s lack of parenting and nurturing is a dead 19-year-old who owes $5,000 to his drug-dealing business partner. Allan (the son unknown) was also a troublemaker at school in the worst was; not only was he suspended for graffitiing the walls of his high school, but his “art” was sexual poetry about his love for his teacher Alice (Diane Kruger). As a viewer is any of this supposed to be funny? A 19-year-old, doing what I assume is a victory lap because he failed to graduate on time, doesn’t know that writing sexual poetry about a woman (his literal teacher!) on the walls of his school is inappropriate?

It might be understandable and possibly even cute if Allen was in grade 5 and didn’t understand what he was doing, but 19? In a post #MeToo world, does Gabizon think sexual harassment is still funny? What’s even more disgusting about this scenario is later in the film when Daniel is attempting to connect with his dead son, one of his maladaptive daydreams is of him and Allen watching a giant-sized, nude Alice pleasuring herself on the roof of the school building, the same vision Allen had described in his poem.

And that wasn’t even the worst moment in the film. This film could have been a meditation on a kid’s life cut too short and his dad coming to terms with that. This movie could have been about a man trying to make meaning out of his troubled son’s life by righting his wrongs and taking responsibility for how things turned out. This film had the potential to be beautiful, instead, it is an empty portrait of an emotionless man stalking his dead son’s teacher while losing his mind. Even that could have been a fun premise for a film; men behaving badly is nothing knew, we still managed to empathize with Tony Soprano and Don Draper.

The movie, the idea, isn’t the problem, it’s Savi Gabizon’s narrow perspective of women and shallow understanding of grief. And that is a shame, because this film really could have been something special.

Longing is in theatres now.

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