Closing the Toronto International Film Festival, Paolo Barzman's Emotional Arithmetic opens in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, where a family's awaiting the arrival of a guest. But it's not a normal family, and it's not a normal guest. Melanie (Susan Sarandon) is looking forward to the guest's arrival; her husband David (Christopher Plummer), less excited. The guest is Jacob (Max von Sydow), who Melanie hasn't seen since the darkest days of World War II, where Jacob looked out for her and a young Irish boy, Christopher at a French transit camp. At the airport, Melanie's surprised to find that Jacob, just released after 35 years in a prison psychiatric camp, is accompanied by the now-grown Christopher (Gabriel Byrne). Memories, regrets, past pain and and what-could-have-been hang in the air. ...

Based on Matt Cohen's novel, Emotional Arithmetic is earnest and fact-filled ... and completely inert; it's like looking at a civics class diorama. The problem isn't primarily the actors, all of whom are fine; it's more that they aren't asked to do much more than show up and be who they are -- Plummer brisk and brusque, Sarandon flighty-yet-flinty, Byrne handsome but haunted, von Sydow weary but wise. Roy Dupuis, playing Melanie and David's son, actually stands out even though his character's not given much to do; it may be because Dupuis isn't simply coasting on his familiarity and prior roles.