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Savages, The


Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney, Philip Bosco

Director: Tamara Jenkins

The few shafts of humour are welcome in this often harrowing tale of the agonies of old age and of care for the helpless and dying.

Ill-equipped for looking after parents who never cared much for them, Wendy and Jon Savage (Linney, Hoffman) find themselves burdened with an ageing, ailing father (Bosco) when his long-time partner dies after 20 years together.

As the elderly couple had some kind of agreement by which neither inherited the other's goods, Dad, suffering from vascular dementia, must move out of his home (which his partner's children are selling) and into care.

Wendy, 39, a single aspiring playwright forever applying for grants, who undergoes soulless sex with a married neighbour, and Jon, 42, a disorganised college professor who teaches The Theatre of Social Unrest, must cope with the situation. Jon finds a nursing home, but Wendy feels guilty it isn't better. The situation, though stressful, does bring brother and sister to a closer understanding of each other.

This is a pretty good movie which spotlights a peculiar American guilt where siblings feel they virtually have to keep vigil over the dying. One expects Linney and Hoffman to be good, and they certainly are, but the film's outstanding performance is from Bosco as their cantankerous father, whose earlier life may have benefited from a course in anger management.

David Quinlan

USA/Canada 2007. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox (Fox Searchlight). Eastman Colour.
115 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 20 Jan 2008