The movie “Samuel Beckett” directed by James Marsh dares to portray a Hollywood-style biography of the famous writer. It begins with Beckett mysteriously fleeing from the Nobel ceremony to have a personal conversation with a doppelganger confessor – a more casual and worldly version of himself wearing a rollneck sweater and jacket. He reflects on who he should give the prize money to, creating a list of people he feels guilty towards and triggering flashbacks from his past.
It is not difficult to imagine what the man himself would have said regarding this film. Despite being a bit exaggerated, the acting is well-done and the story is told with energy, addressing the contradiction between Beckett’s stagnant fictional world and his exciting real life as part of the French resistance and involvement in romantic affairs. Gabriel Byrne gives a thoughtful and serious portrayal of Beckett, while Fionn O’Shea plays the younger man with arrogance and idealism. Sandrine Bonnaire portrays his wife Suzanne, who was cheated on by Beckett with translator and critic Barbara Bray, played by Maxine Peake.
Aiden Gillen steals the show with his fantastic portrayal of James Joyce. Has he performed in Tom Stoppard’s Travesties yet? Gillen’s mischievous yet slightly sinister performance highlights Joyce’s predatory behavior towards Beckett, his young assistant and translator in prewar Paris. Joyce had a manipulative plan to match Beckett with his troubled daughter Lucia (Gráinne Good) in order to rid himself of her. However, when Beckett rejected him, Joyce never forgave him. It can be argued that Beckett’s minimalistic style was a reaction to Joyce’s overwhelming presence.
Robert Aramayo portrays Alfy Péron, Beckett’s Jewish companion who, despite surviving the camps, passed away shortly after being liberated. This serves as yet another instance of pointless and remorseful contemplation. Instead of relying on the overused phrase “fail better,” screenwriter Neil Forsyth opts to include a snippet of Godot in the film’s title. The end result is a captivating and convincing movie, with a touch of bittersweetness in its final shot.