“The Etruscan Smile” Gives Brian Cox A Rare Leading Role


It’s a real shame that too few filmmakers know how to give Brian Cox a proper leading man role. Sure, he’s no spring chicken, but his screen presence and talent are a true force to be reckoned with. On television, he’s turning heads once again with the HBO series Succession. Today, out on VOD is The Etruscan Smile, a movie that actually does give Cox the lead to play. Sadly, despite his strong performance, the film is just not up to snuff, overstaying its welcome and ultimately not giving the man a vehicle worthy go his skills. It’s truly a shame.

The flick is a drama about re-establishing bonds with your family. Aging Scotsman Rory McNeil (Cox) has long been content in his cozy little hometown. However, the need for medical treatment requires him to leave, so he packs his bags, with much protesting, and travels to San Francisco. There, he not only has a doctor to see, he also has an estranged son in Ian (JJ Feild) to perhaps bond with. Moving in, Rory finds that Ian proves difficult to re-connect with, and since he’s mostly puzzled by his take charge daughter-in-law Emily (Thora Birch), that just leaves his baby grandson Jamie (Echo Boom Epps). There, a connection is made, on both ends. With a potentially gloomy diagnosis pending, he must right the wrongs of his past and make sure that his family’s future is as bright as can be. Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis share the directorial duties, while the adaptation of Jose Luis Sampedro’s novel is credited to Sarah Bellwood, Michal Lali Kagan, and Michael McGowan (an Additional Material credit is given to Shuki Ben-Naim and Amital Stern). Javier Aguirresarobe handles the cinematography, while Haim Frank Ilfman composed the score. Supporting players include Rosanna Arquette, Peter Coyote, Tim Matheson, Treat Williams, and more.

As always, Brian Cox is great. Unfortunately, Cox alone can’t make for a compelling movie experience. He’s just not given enough to work with here. He relishes the part, that’s for sure. If only the cavalcade of writers, as well as the two directors, knew what to do with him. There’s moments where they lean in and embrace a culture shock. Others have him as a relic. Sometimes, he’s a wise sage. For Cox, it’s a gamut of emotions to play. As a viewer, however, there’s no consistency to ground the film. That’s what ultimately does it in.

The Etruscan Smile is a film with its heart in the right place, that much is clear to see. It has a kind soul at its core, one that would have served it well with better material. Sadly, it’s just dull and without any forward momentum. The movie needed to invest you more in the characters. Even Cox’s Rory never fully ropes you in, so the secondary players have absolutely no chance. This makes it impossible for anyone involved to fully succeed, Cox included. You’re just left wanting more and wondering what might have been, especially considering the baity role given to the veteran actor.

Now available On Demand, The Etruscan Smile doesn’t quite give you enough to work with, even taking into account the performance being given by Brian Cox. If you’re dying to see Cox in a starring role, this does have that much to offer you. Otherwise, it’s kind of barren. VOD will be friendly to this one, but it’s hard to imagine that too many audience members will be pleased with what they find. There’s just not enough here to warrant a recommendation.


The Etruscan Smile is available on VOD today.

(Photos courtesy of Lightyear Entertainment)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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