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Samuel L. Jackson delivers a career-defining performance in 'The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey'

Dominique Fishback as Robyn with Samuel L Jackson as Ptolemy Grey in as scene from ’The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey’. Picture: Supplied

Dominique Fishback as Robyn with Samuel L Jackson as Ptolemy Grey in as scene from ’The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey’. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 21, 2022

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At 73, it would be safe to assume that Samuel L Jackson has given us his best as an actor.

For decades he reigned supreme with action-packed blockbuster movies.

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When it came to Quentin Tarantino movies, he was a staple. Ditto for “Star Wars” and Spike Lee’s films.

He can be potty-mouthed or sage, depending on the demands of the role.

And he definitely brings that swag he’s become synonymous with.

There was never a ceiling as such in all he attempted, including voice over roles.

Just when we thought the septuagenarian actor and producer has given us the best of himself – he proves us wrong with a career-defining performance in “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey”.

The six-episode limited series is based on Walter Mosley’s novel of the same name.

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The story centres on Ptolemy Grey (Jackson), an elderly man with Alzheimer’s disease.

A scene from “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey”. Picture: Supplied

Although he lives by himself, his nephew Reggie Lloyd (Omar Benson Miller) has been his caregiver.

He stops by with food, makes his doctor’s appointments, takes him to the bank and ensures he’s taking care of himself.

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To further help his uncle, Reggie puts up photos with names to help him identify who is safe to let into the flat.

Then one day, another family member arrives at the door. Ptolemy is reluctant to allow anyone other than Reggie in. But since it has been a while that’s Reggie has dropped by, he has no choice.

He has to go to the bank to clear his cheques. But the young man, while helpful, is opportunistic, too.

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At the bank, he steals from Ptolemy. While annoyed by this youngster robbing him, Ptolemy is distracted by an elderly woman seeking his help to pay her telephone bill.

She tries to use a family heirloom as collateral but he won’t hear of it.

After completing his errands, Ptolemy is taken to the family home. All he wants to do is see Reggie but he is broken to find out that he has passed.

While grieving for the only person who took the best care of him, Ptolemy meets Robyn (Dominique Fishback), a sassy, street-smart teenager.

She isn’t family but, with her mom passing, she “inherited” them.

At first, Robyn is quite judgemental when she meets Ptolemy. But he grows on her.

When she finds herself homeless not long after, she arrives at his home.

And so begins a truly heart-warming story as Robyn becomes Ptolemy’s new caregiver.

She starts by clearing his apartment of all the stuff he’s hoarded over the years.

His roach-ridden place is a mess. But somehow Robyn eases him into allowing her to make it more liveable.

There’s a trust that builds and Robyn becomes as fiercely protective of him as he does her.

During the cleaning spree, she finds a note Reggie left for a doctor’s appointment and takes him to it only to learn that there might be a new experimental drug that could reverse the signs of Ptolemy’s Alzheimer’s.

Of course, it’s not an exact science and the results are short-lived from dose to dose.

As such, Robyn finds herself dealing with two different personalities: a confident, fit Ptolemy who is determined to find his nephew’s killer and a forgetful Ptolemy who moves at a snail’s pace.

Jackson’s vulnerability and nuanced performance are unparalleled. It’s unlike anything you’ve seen him deliver before.

The generation-bridging scenes between Fishback and him cover a wide gamut of emotions.

There’s this unspoken respect that comes to the forefront.

The themes addressed in the series are most pertinent in a world where the elderly are dismissed more often than they are treasured.

“The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey” moves at an unhurried pace.

And that allows the viewer to appreciate the beauty of each scene.

There’s such poignancy in every episode that it haunts as it oscillates between emotional flashbacks to the past and heartbreaking returns to the present.

“The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey” is streaming on Apple TV+.

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