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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The Best Offer

Geoffrey Rush stars in an exquisitely told story of an isolated art auctioneer.
By Daniel Herborn
August 26, 2013
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The Best Offer

Geoffrey Rush stars in an exquisitely told story of an isolated art auctioneer.
By Daniel Herborn
August 26, 2013
  shares

When Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush) celebrates his birthday, he does so dining alone in a high-end restaurant, staring disconsolately at a special cake baked in his honour as other patrons titter at the pitiful spectacle. Lonely as he is, Virgil has carved out a fine career as an art auctioneer and is widely respected as the best at what he does and valued for his fine eye and penchant for detail.

In his fastidiously maintained home, he keeps a whole wardrobe full of top-end designer gloves, the perfect accessory for a man who likes to keep life at arm's length. The wardrobe leads into a sanctuary of his most treasured possessions, a secret stash of portraits of women. He has secured these valuable gems in league with his only real friend, Billy (Donald Sutherland), an art collector who conspires with Virgil to win valuable works at auction, sold under value to 'the best offer'.

When he is engaged to value the collection of antique furniture owned by Claire (Sylvia Hoeks), a young woman whose parents have died, he goes to the spectacular but run-down old property but finds to his frustration that Claire is not there. He continues to visit the property to attend to his work, but Claire is a ghost, always finding excuses not to meet him. Eventually, he finds that a young woman has in fact been in the house all along, but is in hiding. Concealed behind a wall, she tells him she has not left the house since she a traumatic experience she had as a teenager. Sensing a kindred spirit, Virgil gets drawn into her life, against his better judgement.

As Virgil becomes more familiar with the house, he finds scattered wheels and cogs of a mysterious machine, which he takes to Robert (Jim Sturgess), a twinkle-eyed, raffish young man with a busy love life and a flair for repairing old things. Increasingly Virgil comes to confide in Robert and seeks the younger man's advice on the twin mysteries of the contraption and the elusive Claire. Becoming entranced by Claire's ethereal beauty and isolation, Virgil's usually perfect work performance begins slipping, the sign of a man losing control of his ordered life as he grapples with the foreign emotional landscape of human connection.

Writer/director Giuseppe Tornatore has made an exquisitely told story with a cruel sting in its tale. Rush delivers a beautifully judged and involving performance as a man whose austere and detached approach to life is thrown into disarray, while Sylia Hoeks is ideal as the mysterious Claire. While some elements of the story's final act probably don't stand up to closer scrutiny, the overriding impression as the credits roll is one of complete heartbreak, making The Best Offer one of the best feel-bad films in recent memory.

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