This Merchant/Ivory production set in the present day concerns an American PhD candidate (Omar Metwalley) who travels to a remote area of Uruguay to research a biography of an obscure novelist. There, he meets the writer’s bitter widow (Laura Linney), his mistress (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and a dissolute brother (Anthony Hopkins), all living in a sprawling plantation house that seems oddly disconnected from the modern world.
Metwalley slowly becomes involved in the life of this unusual family, and finds himself entangled in their deep secrets and long enduring disputes. The film has the stately, measured pace typical of Merchant/Ivory productions, and is constructed with an intelligent elegance. Linney is remarkable as the icy Caroline, and Gainsbourg emits a fascinating blend of innocence and sexiness.
Although Hopkins later sued the producers for financial breach of contract, here he seems to be having the time of his life as an aging gay playboy. With the passing of Ismail Merchant --and director James Ivory and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala both well into their 80s-- The City of Your Final Destination may mark the last production of this legendary creative team. And it’s not a bad way to go out.