Samuel (Gabriel Byrne) is a college professor who is about to have an awful week thanks to some unpredictable moments. He catches his wife sleeping with another man, and shortly after, she demands a divorce from him. But Samuel also starts to see many strange things, including people from his past and even people dancing to well-known musical tracks around him. What is Samuel seeing? Is it even real? Is it ghosts from his past or something far worse? After a visit to his local doctor, Samuel learns his days are now numbered, and he starts to welcome his visions somewhat. Life now takes him on a new, unexpected journey that reminds him of crucial moments from his past, and perhaps he will discover the real things that are important to his life in the present.
I found the opening to this film rather engaging as we are introduced to Samuel and discover there is more to his character than what we briefly see in the present day. The film also sets up a few quirky mysteries regarding his hallucinations, and I questioned if these were caused due to his age, sickness or because Samuel usually spends his days drinking. Samuel is quite a likeable character even though his attitude and actions are not always agreeable. Gabriel Byrne is easily the biggest highlight of this film from start to finish, and it is to his credit that we find Samuel charming and witty.
When it comes to creativity, I found myself appreciative of what the film brings. Samuel’s visions kept me somewhat engaged and naturally held my curiosity as I wondered if he would ever find peace and healing from his past. For the majority, the film’s soundtrack features the artist Leonard Cohen and these selections always felt fitting, matching both the themes and critical moments. At times characters lip-sync or do a dance number to these songs, which again was pleasing and added a surprising touch.
While performances and the creativity are both pleasing, I am saddened to say I found the film’s plot to be somewhat of a mess. We are introduced to an exciting and engaging story, but the second act felt like a missed opportunity and was full of predictable moments. The third act has some redeeming moments, but it wobbles in pacing and editing, along with almost rushing what should have been a heartfelt moment for its leading characters. The entire plot and concept are great, but it saddened me to see how the whole story unfolded on screen.
Overall, with a witty concept and story plus a stunning performance from actor Gabriel Byrne, the film delivers an adequate time for the most part. But on the other hand, the film has moments that either feel like a waste of time, or make its audience question the editing as to why certain moments were skipped and rushed over. Either way, the film held my curiosity and interest, but I could not help feeling saddened not by the story itself but by the number of missed opportunities I saw throughout the movie. Death of a Ladies’ Man (2020) is Now Available on Digital.