Life & Culture

Death of a Ladies Man film review: Lothario professor sees his world start to crumble

Leonard Cohen's songs and Gabriel Byrne's central performance light up this drama comedy


Cert: 15 | ★★★✩✩

Acclaimed Irish actor Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects, Miller’s Crossing, In Treatment) stars in this whimsical drama comedy from Canadian writer-director Matt Bissonnette (Looking for Leonard).

Inspired by the work of Leonard Cohen, and set to some of his most iconic songs, Death of a Ladies’ Man also stars Brian Gleeson (Phantom Thread, Frank of Ireland), Jessica Paré (Mad Men, Brooklyn) and Antoine Olivier Pilon (Mommy).

Ageing lothario and all around ladies’ man Samuel O’Shea (Byrne) is having a very bad day.

On top of catching his much younger second wife in bed with another man, the poetry professor is also realising that his charms appear to be lost on the young women who usually lap-up his previously irrisistable quirky, shambolic pseudo-intellectual act. Turning up to class hungover in front of his mostly unimpressed Gen Z students, the professor has also taken to hallucinating.

From late-night conversations with his dead father (played by Gleeson), to reimagining his newly out gay son’s hockey game as an intricate ballet performance, Sam feels as though his world is slowly crumbling. Advised to see a doctor the professor is eventually diagnosed with a stage 4 brain tumour. Hilarity ensues when Samuel decides to make a visit to his native Ireland where some home-truths are revealed.

Making good use of some of the best songs in Cohen’s repertoire, Bissonnette delivers a slightly uneven, but undeniably engaging drama comedy which loses its way towards the final act.

While the film functions as a vessel for the director’s own continued fascination with the iconic Jewish Canadian singer-songwriter— his first feature Looking for Leonard was also inspired by Cohen’s work — there is a sense that Death of a Ladies’ Man fails to achieve everything it set out to.

In the end we are left with a film that does its best to cram as many themes into its one hour and 40 minutes running-time as possible without providing anything remotely out of the ordinary.

Still, Byrne et al give some gorgeous performances throughout, while Cohen’s iconic songs are always a welcome distraction in any setting.

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