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.

Nearly 2 500 ways to seize the day

LeisureSeeker
ALMOST in heaven: John Spencer (Donald Sutherland) and his wife Ella (Helen Mirren) on the trip of a lifetime. Photograph courtesy www.miamifilmfestival.com

LET’S FACE IT: our inimitable icons of stage and screen are aging. They’re still beautiful, they’re still sexy and they still have what it takes. Thank goodness the film industry is capable of recognising this and of granting performers such as Judi DenchMeryl Streep, Annette Bening, Julie Walters and Vanessa Redgrave plum roles in which they can celebrate the inevitability of aging. The Leisure Seeker is another gem of this sort, giving voice to delicious performances by Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland as an elderly couple who go rogue on their children, for one last fling.

Ellen (Mirren) and John Spencer (Sutherland) have had a rich, full life. He was a teacher of English literature with a particular penchant for Ernest Hemingway. They’ve two adult children. And they have a 1975 RV which has seen many a holiday with them. But here they are. Neither are in the first flush of health, but life’s for the grabbing and they decide to do a drive from Boston to Florida Keys to see Hemingway’s house.

That’s a drive of nearly 2 500km for the pragmatic. If you’re elderly, with fading memories and bits and pieces that no longer work as they used to, that’s almost the recipe for catastrophe. And catastrophic this is, particularly from the other end of a cell phone like to their children, Jane (Janel Moloney) and William (Christian McKay).

But amid the realities of incontinence and fervour, knee-jerk responses and utter hilarity, this is by all accounts, the journey of a lifetime. Mirren and Sutherland sparkle unforgettably in this beautiful yet thoughtful celebration of what it takes to grow old. The dialogue is crisp and bristly and the context real in terms of how the power is inverted when the parents are old and the children, grown, putting the giggles on the side of grandparents, and the punitive frowns on the side of the kids.

Narratively, the plot wanes a bit in terms of it feeling like adventure upon adventure and reading like a bit of a shopping list, characterised by an “and then … and then … and then” rhythm, but by and large, it’s a laugh and a cry at every stop in the road.

Irresponsible? Absolutely! But life is short and it’s completely for the living. It’s a Thelma and Louise kind of a tale which ends as it must, leaving you with a wet face, but a smiling one.

  • The Leisure Seeker is directed by Paolo Virzi and is performed by a cast headed by Helen Abell, Nicholas Barrera, Lilia Pino Blouin, Carl Bradfield, Robert Walker Branchaud, Roger Bright, Andrea C. Brotherton, Gabriella Cila, Danielle Deadwyler, Adam Drescher, Marc Fajardo, Dick Gregory, Carlos Guerrero, Ryan Clay Gwaltney, Wayne Hall, Joe Hardy Jr, Lucy Catharine Haskill, Rusty Hodgdon, Joshua Hoover, Denitra Isler, Dana Ivey, Ariel R. Kaplan, Jessie Sasser Kloos, Ahmed Lucan, Burk Madison, Dov Mamann, Elijah Marcano, Christian McKay, Matt Mercurio, Joshua Mikel, Helen Mirren, Kirsty Mitchell, Janel Moloney, Lindsey Moser, Robert Pralgo, Chelle Ramos, Jerald Jay Savage, David Silverman, Mylie Stone, Leander Suleiman, Donald Sutherland, Karen Valero, Sean Michael Weber, Ben White and Geoffrey D. Williams. It is written by Stephen Amidon, Francesca Archbugi, Francesco Piccolo and Paolo Virzi, based on the eponymous novel by Michael Zadoorian. Produced by Marco Cohen, Fabrizio Donvito, Benedetto Habib and Bryan Thomas, it features creative input by Carlo Virzi (music), Luca Bigazzi (cinematography), Jacopo Quadri (editing), Ellen Jacoby (casting),Massimo Cantini Parrini (costumes) and Richard A. Wright (production). Release date: March 30 2018.