By Michael Dequina | February 15, 2002

Walking out the auditorium, a friend called Fred Schepisi’s ensemble drama “a crusty old white man’s ‘Joy Luck Club'”–an assessment that isn’t without some kernel of truth. After the death of one of their own, Jack (Michæl Caine), old drinking buddies Ray (Bob Hoskins), Vic (Tom Courtenay), and Lenny (David Hemmings) go on a road trip along with Jack’s son Vince (Ray Winstone) to dispose of his ashes. The road trip is more or less incidental, for the bulk of the film is made up of flashbacks that unravel the tangled relationships of these men and their respective spouses, primarily Jack’s wife Amy (Helen Mirren). For a while, all the flashbacks instead serve the opposite purpose, for the non-linear arrangement and jumping from plotline to plotline make the events more convoluted than they need to be — and the film that much more difficult to get into since all the story shifting makes it hard to keep track of who’s who. Roughly halfway through, though, everything is sorted out, and the film gathers steam through the strength of the performances and the gelling of the characters and their stories, particularly those of Ray, Jack, Vince, and Amy. By film’s end one feels as if they have indeed taken a long trip with these people — and along the way has grown to know and care about them.

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