The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey review: An emotive exploration of memory

Samuel L. Jackson’s streaming debut is touching, but considerably missing in thriller and suspense


9 March 2022

Samuel L. Jackson in "The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey?.

Ptolemy Grey (Samuel L. Jackson) has superior dementia, however a brand new drug modifications every little thing

Hopper Stone/Apple TV+

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

Walter Mosley

Apple TV+

“I GOT to set things right,” says Ptolemy Grey, Samuel L. Jackson’s newest display incarnation. He talks right into a tape recorder whereas loading a bullet supposed for the person banging on his condominium door. “That motherfucker got to pay for what he’s done.” The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey‘s opening scene could have been lifted from a belated Pulp Fiction spin-off, revisiting Jackson’s foul-mouthed, fast-food-obsessed, gun-toting hitman Jules Winnfield practically three many years on.

Then the motion flashes again to simply two months earlier. Now we see Ptolemy as a dishevelled, confused 93-year-old residing on tinned sausages and beans in a cockroach-infested flat. Regular visits from his kindly great-nephew Reggie (Omar Benson Miller) are his solely respite.

This six-part drama, tailored by Walter Mosley from his 2010 novel of the identical title, begins by portray a heartbreakingly convincing image of a person with his mundane day by day routines are interspersed with visions of his beloved late spouse and infrequently horrifying flashbacks from his childhood within the Deep South.

The story takes a flip for the fantastical when Ptolemy discovers he’s eligible for a brand new drug trial that may restore his reminiscences in crystal-clear element. The catch is that it’s a non permanent repair and can worsen his situation in the long term.

Despite this apparent disadvantage, Ptolemy jumps on the likelihood to enroll, having found that what he thought was a birthday celebration was truly Reggie’s funeral. He wants his thoughts again to search out out who’s chargeable for Reggie’s dying.

It is an intriguing set-up, however one which Mosley fails to capitalise on. Ptolemy’s newbie sleuthing isn’t partaking, and the wrongdoer is ultimately revealed so casually that it barely registers. A gripping whodunnit this isn’t, maybe surprisingly contemplating that Mosley constructed his popularity on his novels concerning the hard-boiled detective Easy Rawlins.

The sequence works significantly better as a meditation on reminiscences, consciousness and the passing of time. Ptolemy enjoys studying how issues like hip-hop and the web have progressed throughout his cognitive decline.

But as he tells Dr. Rubin (Walton Goggins), who’s working the drug trial, some issues are forgotten for a purpose. Remembering parts of his traumatic childhood underneath racial segregation solves a number of mysteries, but additionally will increase his night time terrors. And as Ptolemy will get nearer to the reality about his great-nephew, he finds it tougher to manage the reactions that might have stayed buried together with his reminiscences.

Jackson, giving his first on-screen lead efficiency in TV’s new golden age, seems to relish flexing his appearing muscle tissue a bit tougher than he has of late. Through some spectacular ageing and de-ageing make-up, he will get to painting Ptolemy throughout a half-century of his life, giving his character’s shifts between degeneration and regeneration an emotional resonance that has been missing in a few of his current big-screen work.

Fresh from her BAFTA-nominated position in Judas and the Black Messiah, Dominique Fishback additionally impresses as teenage orphan Robyn, the one different member of Ptolemy’s circle who sees him as an individual moderately than an inconvenience. Their touching, platonic relationship is way extra partaking than any of the a number of romantic subplots.

But even this robust central pairing isn’t fairly sufficient to compensate for an unfocused and underwhelming narrative. Ironically, for a drama about the facility of reminiscence, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey is unlikely to go away a long-lasting impression.

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