Right now, in our cinemas there are two films – one American and one British – starring seasoned older actors in roles that mirror their stages in life. And the two have been very differently reviewed by the critics.
Interestingly, however, each movie incorporates the same two important messages for those of us who have come to accept that we are on the way out, in one way or another, as we slide down the slippery slope of old age.
But, before we get onto those messages, a bit about each film. The one that comes highly praised – four and a half stars aren’t awarded lightly in The Sydney Morning Herald – is All is True, starring and directed by veteran Shakespearean devotee Kenneth Branagh, playing Shakespeare himself, in retirement back home in Stratford-upon-Avon. In the sort of authentic-looking period piece that the British do so well, the early 17th century village life is recreated as the backdrop for the moving central theme of reconciliation with his older wife, Anne (played with bravura by Judi Dench), and his daughters. As its reviewer summed this up, “by the end, he has …made peace with his family and calmed his pangs of remorse,….[as] a man whose painful and belated acquisition of self-knowledge finally saves him and enriches everybody around him.” And in the last scenes, he is gently enjoying what he has – consequently – been able to fashion as the last phase of his life.
In complete contrast in many, many ways, is POMS, a totally Hollywood contribution to the new wave of movies targeting the older demographic. Having seen it, I can report that while it is far short of a must-see, I enjoyed the amiable warmth and humour of this film, in amongst an older audience that was clearly doing likewise. So, I would have to say that it deserved slightly more than the two stars awarded to it by its Herald reviewer. And in my opinion, too, he was definitely not tuned into the zeitgeist of an ageing population who could very much relate to many of the issues covered in it. Admittedly, it was in a lighthearted and superficial way, but this is a comedy. Nonetheless, it touched on the complications of adjusting to retirement village life, the value of forming new friendships, the enjoyment of discovering activities that give one a lift (mentally as well as physically), the pleasures that can come from intergenerational relationships admixed with the traumas of being under the thumb of well-meaning children wanting to control their parents’ lives, the challenges of confronting impending death, and – very usefully – the promotion of the increasingly recognised diverse benefits of dancing for older people.
All of this was played out by a band of actors with whom we have grown old, headed by Diane Keaton, Jacki Weaver, Rhea Perlman and Pam Grier. It’s so good to see that they are keeping on keeping on. And so, that reviewer’s summary put-down shows how out of touch he is with the likes of us, when he says that “by and large, however, this is the usual kind of feel-good pap about characters learning to appreciate each other despite their differences and making the most of life while they still have it.”
OMG! While presented very differently, these two messages are, in fact, the essence of both of these two current movies. “Feel-good”, yes – and what is wrong with that? Rather than “pap”, however, not only are they valuable suggestions for our later years, but if we all took them to heart, whether old or young, they are messages that together could help to make the world a better place for everyone.
Anne Ring ©2019