Recently winning his second Academy Award at the age of 83 – the oldest Best Actor winner on record – Sir Anthony Hopkins is certainly enjoying something of a resurgence of late, with 2019 also seeing him nominated for a slew of awards for his work in The Two Popes, and his titular performance in 2018’s King Lear winning him critical acclaim. But like any ageing cinema legend, Hopkins still finds time for clunkers. His latest performance, in a project directed by his wife Stella Hopkins (which might explain why he took the gig), is an embarrassment for all concerned – but almost certainly got Sir Anthony some points with the missus for agreeing to star in it.
The amateurish mess makes up for its lack of quality with a colossal dose of pretentiousness – to a degree that is near-laughable, if it wasn’t so tragic. The arduous 95-minute slog is a film of two halves; the first being in black and white with splashes of colour, desperate to appear stylish. The narrative follows the titular Elyse (a hammy Lisa Pepper, who appeared in Sir Anthony’s directorial debut Slipstream), a woman who appears to have it all but is suffering from depression and violent mood swings. When her husband (Aaron Tucker, more wooden than a tree) suggests she see a psychiatrist (Sir Anthony), the film shifts into colour and the narrative becomes more convoluted in a deliberately vague delivery to try and keep the audience guessing what’s real and what’s not, as seen in recent Hopkins Oscar-winner The Father. Except here, we just don’t care.
The only glimpses of quality here are those provided by Sir Anthony – his performance, although understated, is as magnificent as we’ve come to expect from the beloved actor, while he also took up the duty of composing the film’s haunting score. Everything else is a mess.
The screenplay, written by director Stella and Audrey Arkins, is full of laughable, turgid, nonsensical dialogue that borders on parody. The film’s desperate attempts to be stylish with its visuals and structure are utterly futile, and the performances of everyone around Sir Anthony are dreadful. The film feels like it was put together by someone who flunked a beginner’s Film Studies course but thought they’d have a go at filmmaking anyway – and it just so happens they’re lucky enough to be married to Sir Anthony Hopkins. If anybody else had directed Elyse, it wouldn’t have seen the light of day.
Elyse is so desperate to be something special, but it fails on almost every level. It’s a film that feels like a spoof of cerebral awards-bait drama, ticking off every cliché as it zigzags its’ way through its overly-complicated and downright bland narrative. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been done better a hundred times before in vastly superior films, meaning there is very little reason to even consider enduring Elyse. It feels almost like a lockdown project that Sir Anthony and his wife made together simply to pass the time.
Recommended only for Sir Anthony Hopkins completists, and gluttons for cinematic punishment.
ELYSE is out on digital platforms from 31 May, courtesy of Thunderbird Releasing