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The film is called Longing, which is an English-language remake by Savi Gabizon of his own Israeli film from 2017. that might account for some of the inherent strangeness of the movie. Something was lost in translation? Maybe not; the original film (which you can stream on Tubi) is also a bit strange, although it is more pointedly funny and less nuanced. It’s just that maybe Americans are too used to having our emotions told to us all the time and so we have grown comfortable with manipulation. Things are very different in “Longing”, a somber drama about dead children that gets so absurd and awkward that you keep laughing or cringing for lack of a better response.

Daniel Bloch, a taciturn businessman in his twilight years, is followed through this picture. His demeanor is like that of someone who’s always busy with business because he has enough money to do these things right from his backseat where one will find such gadgets as Palm Pilot does. A lunch date with Daniel by Suzanne Clément brings up something urgent as she reveals their son whom he never knew about before. She became pregnant when they were emotionally and physically apart seventeen years ago. She begins crying at their fancy restaurant table and runs into the bathroom. He calls his attorney first; there’s no way he’ll let himself be tricked out of any cash here.

When she comes back after many years, she uses this opportunity to make even more shocking confession: Daniels’ child died in car accident recently. He’s called for funeral service. This would probably knock your average Hollywood Scrooge out of their selfish lonely habits forcing them into learning how to live again at an old age — laugh again, love again…. It sounds like something Richard Gere would star in if you ask me (“Nights in Rodanthe”, “Autumn in New York” etc.). That isn’t what happens in Longing although Richard Gere is in it.

Daniel spends the night alone at his fancy place in New York before getting behind the wheel and driving to the small town where his son grew up. There’s room for him at a local hotel for one or two nights when he can see Suzanne Clément again, attend the funeral service, and leave. Daniel however gets more interested in knowing who this boy was as small things about his life are revealed bit by bit.

His son’s best acquaintance shows up late one night at his hotel and relates some things about that boy. He also needs thousands since 17 year old kid’s vehicle drove over a bridge with his huge stash of marijuana inside of it. The young man had decided to start selling drugs after being expelled from school.

That is why he goes to the nearby school to find out how come they chose to expel him; those words which were used to describe what he did, painted on big black letters just outside the fence of the school. To Daniel, it looks like a French love poem though, with which he is really angry at having such a thing written about his son leading to expulsion from school.

He gets to know about the subject of the graffiti poem, the teacher (played by Diane Kruger) whom his son obsesses over. Daniel encounters her and tries to get acquainted with her just as he does to everything in this town—things that show unnoticeable traits left behind by his child. In this sense, longing is a conundrum where the detective is a father investigating his son’s identity.

Savi Gabizon would be assisted by Moverman here, an Israeli filmmaker for Longing in helping translate the original film into a North American English language context. Gere/Moverman/ Gabizon combination always has that lightning in a bottle quality where they assist in creating an exceedingly engaging character of Daniel Bloch. He is only one who seems alive after years of ritualistic capitalism suddenly obsessed with something that appears like it gives him some purpose in life even though it is dead.

It’s interesting watching Daniel piece together an identity for his dead son completely post hoc and also seeing other people who had very different experiences with the boy when he was alive test out –and sometimes negate- that conception of him as a person. Even if he never became a father, Daniel becomes strangely protective of the child he never knew whenever those perceptions are threatened by pretty unsightly realities. Unusually unhinged performances from Gere here make for unflattering sometimes strange but ultimately naked and embarrassing scenes; they are really what makes this film work since otherwise it would have been weirdly tranquil.

Daniel and Longing take things to extremes which will be uncomfortable or simply laughable to many viewers. Upon learning about another deceased child right here in town, suicide this time round, Daniel comes up with an idea of having arranged marriages between these two dead kids. He and the movie approach this funeral wedding with so much seriousness that it may seem as if Daniel has genuinely gone mad having an untimely convenient nervous breakdown; however Longing does not play it like this. You are unsure whether to laugh at it, find it extremely dumb or be touched by all that in an odd way.

There is something impressive about that, and even more so because someone with Gere’s Hollywood status goes all the way with Longing. But does this make the film any less strange or embarrassing? Not really. It is a very strange watch; you can see that through the end of what feels like a cliched Hallmark movie despite being ridiculously insane and disturbingly sad at the same time. You might not know how you feel about Longing but you will keep thinking about it long after it has passed.

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