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Italy / UK / USA 1992
Directed by
Hal Hartley
105 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Simple Men

Writer-director Hal Hartley's characteristics devices - the mannered, overtly-intellectualised dialogue, off-beat characters and quirky storytelling, devices that can, and in his subsequent films do, so easily seem tiresomely contrived, work to wryly humorous effect in this story of a couple of brothers Bill and Dennis (Robert Burke and William Sage) in search of their fugitive anarchist father.  They head off from NYC to Long Island (a terminal moraine, we are told…twice) where they believe he might be and along the way, encounter Elina (Elina Löwensohn) and her friend Kate (Karen Sillas) who runs a cafe, with whom Bill falls in love despite swearing never to do so again.

Although perhaps a tad too long, for the most part Hartley’s film works – the story is multi-layered without straining to be complex, the often irony-laden dialogue is wryly amusing and the skilful performances, which are delivered completely straight, are droll with Sage standing out as the sensitive and more level-headed of the brothers. 

A former film school student like many of the iconic auteurs of cinema history such as Orson Welles and Jean-Luc Godard Hartley would  take his repertory approach including his actors and cinematographer Michael Spiller onto further projects but none with the élan of Simple Men.




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