'A Long Way From Home' is a retelling of a very old story

James Fox’s character, Joseph, in the film A Long Way from Home has been married to his wife Brenda, played by Oscar-winning Irish actress Brenda Fricker, for half a century.

'A Long Way From Home' is a retelling of a very old story

They’ve left England behind for the Roman ruins and sun-soaked charm of Nîmes in France.

They go there to wind down, although a spark is lit in Joseph when he meets Suzanne, an English tourist, and her jackass boyfriend.

“He’s a man who is in his early 70s,” says Virginia Gilbert, the film’s writer and director, “who has been refusing to face up to this stage in life. With old age, when you realise there is less time ahead of you than in front of you and what that means in terms of how you live your life, what potential or otherwise there is — these are all big and scary questions. These are issues that James Fox’s character is evading.

“As happens in life often, when we’re avoiding bigger questions, we displace onto other things. He displaces a lot of these fears and feelings onto a younger woman, and a crisis is provoked within him because of these yearnings. He has a powerful feeling to feel alive at whatever cost.”

Suzanne’s character, played by Natalie Dormer, is at another crossroads. Gilbert adds: “The young woman he falls in love with is in on the cusp of her 30s. She’s also going through a bit of a life crisis.

“For women turning 30, it’s a different milestone than it is for men. I felt it when I became 30.

“For a woman, that is the decade when a lot has to happen if you want it to happen — issues of family, children, marriage, all that kind of thing.

“James Fox’s character is drawn to her, and she to him, because in a strange sort of way they both identify with the moment of crisis or transition in both their lives.”

Gilbert, who is a published novelist, adapted A Long Way from Home from one of her short stories. She has only recently returned to live in the UK, having spent 15 years in Ireland, originally moving to Dublin to study at Trinity College.

She is married to Keith Farnan, the stand-up comedian from Cobh, Co Cork, and is the daughter of Brian Gilbert, the director of Tom & Viv and Wilde, which the teenaged Gilbert worked on as a production trainee.

Gilbert got her schooling in film from an early age at her father’s feet. She has illuminating things to say about the industry.

“Obviously there are film boards, and state funding on one side, but then there is the weird and wonderful world of scrabbling together finance from private individuals.

“It’s such a high-risk business that anybody involved on that finance side is ultimately a gambler, and that kind of temperament brings its own delights.

“There is quite a contradiction in that many of the creatives — actors in particular, writers, and some directors — are almost pathologically shy and introverted, and can find it difficult to deal with the extraneous stuff that goes on outside.

“Woody Allen strikes me as being quite shy. And Cate Blanchett, for example, doesn’t seem to be the kind of person who likes to spill the beans on her inner life.”

A Long Way From Home will be screened in selected Irish cinemas from Friday, February 28.

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