As subdued in its dramatic storytelling as it is strident in its political messages, Emlyn Williams’ “Do Not Go Gentle” fails to satisfy aud expectations for a film detailing an elderly man’s battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Seventh pic by Williams — who goes by the same name as his father, revered thesp-helmer Emlyn Williams — lacks the visual originality to enliven its plain account of how the burden of caring for the elderly can drive wedges between stressed family members. U.K. Oscar entry (with predominantly Welsh dialogue) is much too dowdy for Stateside arthouse viability, with specialized cable play its best possibility worldwide.
Witty opening montage promises a far more ironic and visual film than is delivered, as old Wil Davies (Stewart Jones) has one problem after another at his northwest Wales home, just as Tory P.M. John Major announces on the telly his bid for re-election in 1997. Wil is so distressed that he walks out of his home wearing shirt and cap, but nothing underneath.
His daughter Maureen (Gwenno Hodgkins) already has her hands full at home, and can’t possibly take old Dad in. But in order for them to afford the nice-looking gabled retirement home, the family will need to sell Wil’s property.
Maureen’s brothers — Alun (Arwel Gruffydd), an alcoholic classical trumpet player, and John (Gwyn Vaughan), a bottom-line business type — are more hindrance than help. Alun’s myriad problems nearly overwhelm the central story as his drinking finally proves too much for his conductor-boss named, quite cinematically, Federico Rossellini (Romolo Bruni). It’s clear that Alun deserves his own movie. The one here, however, becomes somewhat lost in the process.The energetic wrath that Wil unleashes every time he sees Margaret Thatcher on the news hints at a more coherent and able man than the one shown during most of the movie. Suspicions about another side to Wil’s character are eventually confirmed in utterly unconvincing fashion. Williams wants auds to finally view Wil’s seemingly erratic behavior as a crafty bid at getting back at a heartless welfare system, but the careless dramaturgy is the only factor that really commands attention.The performances aim for the raw naturalism of the Ken Loach school, but they generally lack fury and energy. Jones works up a good deal of quiet wrath and tension, and his is by far the most compelling turn. Gruffydd’s forlorn Alun is a virtually invisible man at first, but soon makes a real impression. Production values capture the lives and settings of working Welsh, but in the blandest form possible.