Return to Montauk – Film Review by Frank L.
Director: Volker Schlöndorff (as Volker Schloendorff)
Writers: Colm Tóibín (screenplay), Volker Schlöndorff (screenplay) (as Volker Schloendorff)
Stars: Stellan Skarsgård, Bronagh Gallagher, Nina Hoss
Schlöndorff co-wrote the script with Colm Tóibín and the story is partly based on Max Fritsch’s memoir entitled “Montauk” to whom the film is dedicated.
Max Zorn (Stellan Skarsgård) is an established writer who is in New York for the launch of his new novel where his much younger wife Clara (Susanne Wolff) is currently located. While outwardly he is apparently successfully on all fronts, Max’s actual life is rootless and somewhat threadbare even if his horizontal abilities (sex life) appear to be in fine fettle. In Manhattan, his mind recalls times past and in particular an old flame Rebecca (Nina Hoss). He decides to find her in the Big Apple. She is now a successful corporate criminal lawyer with a suitably swish lifestyle (including her apartment) to match. One of her most endearing features is her cookie friend Rachel (Bronagh Gallagher) who provides an astute counterbalance to Rebecca’s corporate sophistication.
Not surprisingly, Rebecca awakens long dormant emotions within the seen-better-days Max. Notwithstanding his numerous conquests, he considers that she was the most important woman in his life. Rebecca lets him back into her life. This would appear to create the eternal triangle but Clara’s personality is lightly drawn and it would be difficult to describe it as a triangle, notwithstanding she is Max’s wife.
Rebecca is contemplating buying a second home in Montauk to which she and Max make a visit. Once they reach Montauk, the story takes on a different timbre. However, there was little in either of their characters up to that point which would make them of great interest to an observer unless the doings of a successful attorney or of a successful novelist is of itself of great interest.
Skarsgård creates a fine impression of a self-obsessed artistic figure. Hoss is so cool as the successful attorney, it is hard to imagine her other than in her current mode of remote self-absorption even if she does show some concern about her German parents, who do not make appearance. A delightful character is Bronagh Gallagher’s Rachel. She is a member of that endearing species who have made their home in New York and add, because of their confident individuality, to the texture of the city. Another pleasing aspect of the film is the uncompromising roughness of the Atlantic coast around Montauk in the off season. It emits a sea saltiness.
However, this is a story primarily about two people who are living careers of apparent importance in their own sphere of influence. Neither of them have much interest in any other human being other than themselves. It is hard therefore to engender much enthusiasm for either of them as a result of their re-encounter.