James Ivory and cast make every scene flutter with feeling in this adaptation of Peter Cameron's 2002 novel, written for the screen by Ivory's collaborator of 50 years, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Omar (Omar Metwally), an American Ph.D. student, shows up unannounced at a secluded Uruguayan country estate to petition the household of novelist and suicide Jules Gund for permission to write the great man's biography, the completion of which would guarantee a professorship (a fate worse than death, it's implied). Omar must impress Gund's stranded 28-year-old mistress, Arden (Charlotte Gainsbourg); his shunned 40-something wife, Caroline (Laura Linney), loath to publicize their ménage; and his elder brother, Adam (Anthony Hopkins, with Hiroyuki Sanada his longtime companion). These are Merchant-Ivory cosmopolitans, people who quote Persian poets before dulcet landscapes. But even life among this aristocracy of the sensitive is not without complexities, with everyone trapped in their age-appropriate life crises. Arden and Omar's flirtation is interrupted when his girlfriend (Alexandra Maria Lara) arrives; dashing, weak Omar, less self-willed than the average 19th-century marriage-novel heroine, hereafter recedes behind the women. Best is Linney, conquering scenes as the acrid and touching Caroline, her regal bitterness a shield against nostalgia, dressed Park Avenue posh to drink alone.
Linney conquers as Caroline.
Opens at Seven Gables, Fri., June 18. Rated PG-13. 118 minutes.