Because sometimes life begins at 70

findingyourfeet
LAST one in’s a rotten egg! Sisters Bif (Celia Imrie) and Sandra (Imelda Staunton), noseplugs and all, brave a swim in winter. Photograph courtesy The Culture Concept Circle.

WHAT DO YOU do after 40 years of marriage to a man with a social standing, when you find he’s been canoodling with someone else for long enough to make it serious? If you’re Lady Sandra Abbott (Imelda Staunton), you furiously and tearfully tootle off to your big sister, Bif (Celia Imrie), with matching luggage in hand, even if you haven’t seen her for ten years and at best your relationship with her is rickety and judging. This is the starting point for Finding Your Feet, a British romantic comedy about love, loss, sisters and forever.

The grand narrative of the tale, which uses social dancing as its nub, is as clichéd and syrupy as you can possibly imagine, but it’s the manner in which the work is populated, written and performed that will make you forgive every well trodden piece of predictability as you mop your snot and tears with abandon, holding back on the huge sobs for fear of embarrassing yourself amongst strangers.

Staunton and Imrie absolutely sparkle in their embrace of these two sisters, in terms of the social values and wild idiosyncrasies each represents and their sibling intersections: it’s not an immediately lovey-dovey forgiving relationship. Rather, it’s quite a tough one, which touches on messy interiors and deep secrets, rendering women probably in their 70s still subject to the little sweet and sometimes spiteful things they did as small girls. And, as is the wont of British comedy at its very best, the texture of the work is developed with such a fine sense of dark humour, you will laugh until the tears flow copiously.

You’ll also cry with the same sense of abandon. And just when you think you can’t cry any more, the film turns a corner and you begin to weep with joy. The plausibility offered by this splinteringly fine cast which also includes Joanna Lumley as Jackie, Timothy Spall as Charlie and David Hayman as Ted, the dance mates. It’s about growing older with unapologetic flamboyance and living for the moment as it comes.

It’s a tonic of a film, in the same kind of genre as Film Stars don’t die in Liverpool and to an extent, The Leisure Seeker, which will haunt you if you’ve ever had a sibling, or let a dream go, or felt trapped in a context which in your deepest heart you know isn’t yours. Or even if you will never see 50 again. But more than that, it’s also an extremely moving foray into the reality of dementia and how it impacts on one’s loved ones in ways that are seldom discussed on the silver screen.

Don’t see this film without lots of tissues on hand, and hold off on that mascara. This is a real weepy, but one that’s as good as it gets.

  • Finding Your Feet is directed by Richard Loncraine and features a cast headed by Anna Afferri, Alister Albert, Christina Avery, Alex Blake, Kaye Brown, Clare Cashion, Peter Challis,  Paul Chan, Rochelle De-Terville, Sonny Fowler, Samuel Gaspard, Fred Folkes, Avril Gaynor, David Hayman, Dollie Henry, Richard Hope, Celia Imrie, Josie Lawrence, Heather A Lewis, Teresa Lucas, Joanna Lumley, Christopher Molloy, Jill Nalder, Phoebe Nicholls, Niall O’Loughlin, Frankie Oatway, Kenn Oldfield, Marianne Oldham, Indra Ové, Basil Patton, Jacqueline Ramnarine, Steve Saunders, John Sessions, Raven Shanelle, Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, Karol Steele, Fran Targ, Sian Thomas, Sarah-Jane Tindle, Philip Tsaras, Victoria Wicks and Patricia Winker. It is written by Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft. Produced by Andrew Berg, Meg Leonard, Nick Moorcroft, John Sachs, James Spring and Charlotte Walls, it features creative input by Michael J McEvoy (music), John Pardue (cinematography), Johnny Daukes (editing), Irene Lamb (casting), Jon Bunker (production design) and Jill Taylor (costumes). Release date: May 24 2018.

When Gloria met Peter

Film Stars
ROMEO and Juliet: Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) and Peter Turner (Jamie Bell) embrace their love, their lives and the Bard. Photograph courtesy www.austinchronicle.com

IT’S A GREAT rarity for a child actor who wows his audience to go away and come back to the industry all grown up and wow some more. This is exactly what you get in Paul McGuigan’s film Film stars don’t die in Liverpool, which features Jamie Bell as Peter Turner. This unique love story which is based on the true story of American film actress Gloria Grahame (1923-1981), penned by Turner himself, is the kind of film that will give you hope for the future of this society – and its filmmaking culture – it’s elegant and beautifully constructed with strong messages and gritty performances. And like any other love story, it’s about giving with a full heart and letting go, but there are so many delicate edges to it, you will want to watch this film over and over again. Forever.

Seventeen years ago, Jamie Bell was the child who defined Stephen Daldry’s Billy Elliott (2000), a story about a Northern England boy, the son of a miner in the riotous 1980s who wanted to do ballet. Today, he’s an adult, but the maverick fire in his belly and his ability to embrace complex social issues is as refined and beautiful now as they were then.

Again, we’re in the 1980s, with all its dance moves and analogue culture, in this wild romance. And the girl in the love story? It’s none other than Annette Bening, who is magnificent as a Grahame in her fifties. The love is passionate and unconventional, and Peter’s mum is played by the inimitable Julie Walters. Indeed, with Vanessa Redgrave playing Grahame’s mother, this film offers a full house of fabulous actresses over 60 and it celebrates them in ways that make you value the elderly in your own community.

But more than all of this, Film stars don’t die in Liverpool offers the kind of perfection that very few films can. Featuring a mature understanding of silence and wall paper patterns, of subtlety and finesse, along the lines of Hal Ashby’s 1971 Harold and Maude, which remains arguably one of the finest Holocaust films ever; it’s about exploring your lover’s body and finding truths which she can never tell you. It’s about what happens when marriage doesn’t seal your love, giving your lover’s relatives priority over you when it comes to death.

You know how this film will end by the very virtue of its title, but the predictability of the work is not the point. This is a film that embraces the brevity of life with fierceness and verve. It heightens the bar for the possibility of telling a story of this nature, enormously. It’s a film that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back into the glamour and magic of 1950s Hollywood, with all its illusions of sincerity, its stars and its unbroken dreams.

  • Film stars don’t die in Liverpool is directed by Paul McGuigan and is performed by Lee Adach, Anna Afferr, Tim Ahern, Lasco Atkinds, Rick Bacon, Frances Barber, Joey Batey, Roy Beck, Gintare Beinoraviciute, Jamie Bell, Annette Bening, Suzanne Bertish, Leanne Best, Michael Billington, James Bloor, Edward Bourne, Mark Braithwaite, Michael Brand, Tom Brittney, Joanna Brookes, Jade Clarke, Kenneth Cranham, Paul Dallison, David Decio, Stephanie Eccles, Karl Farrer, Helen Iesha Goldthorpe, Vaslov Goom, Stephen Graham, Leon Grant, Leila Gwynne, Alan Wyn Hughes, Alex Jaep, Bentley Kalu, John Kinory, Isabella Laughland, Adam Lazarus, Ify Mbaeliachi , Gemma Oaten, Luana Di Pasquale, Gino Picciano, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Redshaw, David Soffe, Alexandra Starkey, Asmeret Tesfagiorgis, Glynn Turner, Peter Turner, Jay Villiers, Julie Walters, Nicola-Jayne Wells, Susan Westbury, Patricia Winker and Charlotte Worwood. It is written by Matt Greenhalgh, based on the eponymous memoir by Peter Turner. Produced by Barbara Broccoli and Colin Vaines, it features creative input by J. Ralph (music), Urszula Pontikos (cinematography), Nick Emerson (editing), Debbie McWilliams (casting), Jany Temime (costumes) and Eve Stewart (production). Release date: March 22 2018.