Challenges to Reconnecting : Review of Longing

Richard gere and Suzanne Clement walking Longing

Reconnecting with a long-lost child is difficult for anybody, but especially for Daniel Bloch (Richard Gere), who has spent nineteen years in a different country without knowing his son existed. Especially given that Daniel’s own past is marred by the memories of an abusive father and his fears of perpetuating that cycle, especially when Daniel’s son died two weeks ago. 

Longing follows Daniel in the wake of an immense tragedy, as he travels to Canada to meet with his ex-girlfriend Rachel (Suzanne Clément) and mourn the death of his son, Allen (Tomaso Sanelli). Slowly, tentatively, Daniel tries to ingrain himself into his child’s world, discovering a troubled, sensitive, romantic young man with a passion for the arts. Daniel’s quest brings him into contact with a range of characters, including Allen’s younger girlfriend Lilian (Jessica Clement), a fellow grieving father Jacob (Larry Day),  and a French teacher named Alice (Diane Kruger), whom Allen was obsessed with. Along the way Daniel becomes caught up in the idea of a “ghost marriage” between his son and Jacob’s dead daughter. It sounds like a bunch of superstitious nonsense, and the idea gets him laughed at by both his ex-girlfriend and by Jacob– but the idea continues to coalesce in Daniel’s mind as a way to posthumously give his son what his romantic soul always wanted. 

Much of the movie’s depth comes from Suzi Gabizon’s brilliant writing. His choice of protagonist adds layers of connection to the movie, as Daniel’s lack of knowledge allows him and us to experience Allen’s life without any emotional blinders. The audience discovers who his son is right alongside Daniel. We feel his shock at each revelation as though it’s our own. While the twists can at times border on the melodramatic, Gabizon lays them out masterfully, pacing them so that the old becomes new and refreshing once again. The cast brings home what might otherwise feel like rote and uninteresting roles— the ex, the hot teacher, the estranged father. Suzanne Clément’s role as a grieving mother is particularly striking, masterfully portraying Rachel’s emotional swings as she navigates the loss of her only son and her tenuous reconnection with his biological father. When she’s mourning, it’s palpable in her face, her actions, and even her silence. When she laughs it’s something deeper. A near-hysterical relief. And there will be laughter, because for all its emotional impact, there’s an undercurrent of comedy to Longing. 

In fact, sometimes it’s difficult to tell when you’re laughing from discomfort or just because the scene is genuinely amusing. You laugh and then you feel guilty for laughing, and through that you realize what it truly feels like to try and move on from grief that isn’t yours. You should be allowed to feel happiness. You must, because you must move on. 

Longing is constantly shifting, alive, reminding us of what we have to cherish now during life. People laugh and smile and drink wine beside gravestones. Scenes are shot in the balmy town of Hamilton, Ontario with the sun still out and the sky clear as water. Often throughout the movie, characters comment on how a wedding between two deceased is pointless because– well, because they’re deceased. But in the end, the ceremony is not for the dead. It’s for the living. 

Slow to begin but devastating at the finish, Longing is a revelation about grief, family, and what it truly means to love someone. 

Longing is available now.