Review: Eversmile, New Jersey

If you dig around in Amazon Prime Video’s library enough, you’ll find some interesting films and this is one of them, directed by Carlos Sorin and co-written with Roberto Scheuer and Jorge Goldenberg. Travelling dentist Fergus O’Connell (Daniel Day Lewis) traverses South America on his motorcycle for the ‘Eversmile’ foundation of New Jersey, to fight for a larger awareness of dental care and along the way finds himself, somewhat reluctantly, a new assistant. Also starring: Mirjana Jokovic, Gabriela Acher, Julio De Grazia, Ignacio Quirós and Miguel Ligero.

Daniel Day Lewis has played many an iconic character over the years so it’s somewhat of an outlier to have him playing a travelling dentist but as always, he throws himself completely into the role and is more than committed. Fergus is an odd character to nail down, he’s overly dedicated to his cause of teaching the world about dental care, in a way that’s aggressive and somewhat unhinged. At the heart of his aggression is a genuine desire to help people but his strange blend of prophesising and outbursts makes him a difficult man to get along with or sympathise with. There’s certainly a quality to his performance that leads you to believe there’s something larger at play that fuels his motivation but it’s something that generally remains unsaid. Jokovic does a great job at supporting the story as Estela but it’s undeniable that this is a Day-Lewis vehicle, he takes up so much of the air, it’s difficult for her to make too much of an impact. Estela comes across more as a conduit to offer a new, fond perspective of Fergus, to make him more accessible and it does succeed but there’s little else for her character to offer in terms of personality.

This film seems to hail itself as a comedy but you’d be best served taking that with a grain of salt going in, it’s a peculiar kind of humour that’s hidden among the layers of Fergus’ strange persona. Mostly, it’s a drama that simply follows one man as he tries to offer remote communities’ access to healthcare that’s generally denied or that is a luxury that cannot be afforded. In that sense it does offer a metaphor for wider injustices in places where citizens don’t have access to the basic necessities that any person should, however it’s mostly to be found in Fergus’ outbursts, which was a strange way to deliver it. The writing is interesting, it’s not brilliant or particularly sharp, it’s quite down to earth and for a film about a dentist, they certainly don’t skim on the teeth chatter, which gets a bit repetitive. There was more room to dive into the backgrounds of these characters, while Fergus’ behaviour does give away certain aspects of his personality, there’s more details that are missing.

Sorin’s directorial style feels humble, never straying far from its characters and holding strong the tone of a personal drama. There’s a quality to it that’s very unassuming, but then as it nears its end it throws in a little bit of fantasy to stray outside of its lines which adds an interesting layer to the film as a whole. It also does extremely well to never try to glamorise the situation, Fergus and Estela travel through very rural areas in South America and that’s exactly what the visual gives you, it’s dusty and rough around the edges.

Eversmile, New Jersey is one of those films that would happily sit in the ‘quirky’ category, choosing to follow a slightly volatile dentist as he tries to help and educate communities is a strange choice which is surprisingly captivating. In the larger scheme of things, it doesn’t have too much to offer, it is slightly repetitive and fairly restrictive about how much of its characters that it explores. Day Lewis gives one of his many fantastic performances and is always a great presence to watch on screen, so if for nothing else it’s worth watching for that and to see him perform the line “The world is collapsing outside. And I have an erection”.

Verdict: ✯✯½ 

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