Hayley Atwell, Vanessa Redgrave, Joss Ackland, Orla Brady
Alice: You only see things properly when you’re about to leave…and it’s as if you see them for the first time. Everything seems to shine!
After very little contact with her family for a year, Ellie (Atwell) shows up one day at the retirement home her sister Kate (Brady) runs. She takes a job there, and when Kate must leave for a while to be with their mother, Ellie is left to look after the 4 residents that didn’t go to live with their families for the Christmas holiday.
If I tell you that you’re going to see a movie about a bunch of old people in a retirement home, what would you expect to see? An assortment of eccentric characters tormenting each other in mostly lighthearted ways, then growing to like each other? Yeah, you get that here. You’d also expect some introspection about the sadness of growing old and losing all the people and things you cared about. That’s here also. And finally you’d expect a younger character to be present that learns some valuable lessons from the older characters about seizing opportunities in life while you’re still young. Well…you sort of get that here.
And that’s the more interesting angle in this movie. The 20-something year old Ellie is not real close to her family, has a boyfriend her sister disapproves of, and is into some light drug use. You’d think she’d be the one learning all the big lessons in this movie, but in actuality, her character is the one who turns things around for the other characters. Basically she shows them that being old doesn’t mean that you have to be alone. That it’s not too late to find new friends and family.
I haven’t seen Hayley Atwell in anything before, but she’s quite good here. I mean, she’s challenged with acting right along side of people like Vanessa Redgrave and Joss Ackland. These are actors with tremendous screen presence, but Atwell holds her own just fine.
One particularly poignant thing about the film is the early friendship between Ellie and one of the residents, Alice (Joan O’Hara). Both Alice and the actress playing her happened to be close to death at the time, so the character’s dialogue (some quoted above) seems all the more honest and heartbreaking. Their scenes together seem a bit more grounded in reality than the rest of the movie. I would have liked to see more of that relationship.
I can’t say this is a particularly original movie, and it’s much too glossy to seem like a believable look into the lives of the elderly in a retirement home, but it does have a lot of good performances, a genuine sense of compassion for its characters, and some lovely cinematography to boot. By no means is it a must see, but it’s worth a look if you get the chance.
Them young’ns might have some wisdom to impart too.
10 – 2 for being a bit too glossed over and unrealistic – 1.5 for a few lulls and for the very end being a little weak + .2 for great performances all around = 6.7