Books Magazine

Growing Old in Film #BriFri

By Joyweesemoll @joyweesemoll

British Isles Friday logoWelcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, I talked about Brexit (by the time you read this post, we may know how it turned out!). Heather reviewed the alternate history Arabella of Mars  — what if Britain colonized Mars in the 1600s? Tina reviewed the classic novel The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier. Jackie finished sharing her photos from her 2005 trip to Ireland with lots of sights in Dublin.  For Father’s Day, Sim shared stories about her well-traveled English father. Becky was all over Britain last week. She watched the film Testament of Youth, the mini-series And Then There Were None, two Winston Churchill movies, and the 8-episode Beatles Anthology documentary.  Becky also read two children’s books by Roald Dahl:  Matilda and Fantastic Mr. Fox.

The Lady in the Van film
Maggie Smith, as the title character, plays a quirky, secretive homeless woman.

Several of us have noted in  our British Isles Friday posts that the British portray a greater variety of interesting faces in their films and television productions. Hollywood, in contrast, seems interested in showing only a narrowly-defined notion of beautiful people. I suspect this accounts for a greater willingness among British film makers to tackle the concept of aging. Older faces are beautiful, if you’re inclined to appreciate the unique marks of character and experience.

We watched two British films recently that featured older people.

The Lady in the Van stars Maggie Smith in a part almost polar opposite of the Dowager Countess of Grantham role she played in Downton Abbey.  This was a reprise for Maggie Smith — she also played Mary Shepherd in a West End play production of The Lady in the Van and a BBC radio adaptation.

Based on a true story, The Lady in the Van parked her van / home in the driveway of author and playwright Alan Bennett, played by Alex Jennings (except for a brief appearance by the actual author near the end). Alan Bennett is famous for a number of things, but for book lovers, I recommend the delightful The Uncommon Reader.

We enjoyed The Lady in the Van for the humor, poignancy, and mystery. I also enjoyed the on-location set in the Camden Town neighborhood of London.

45 Years film
Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay star as a long-married couple making new discoveries.

45 Years takes place in the few days preceding a couple’s 45th wedding anniversary party — and the few days after the husband receives word that the body of a woman he’d loved and lost to a fall in a glacier has resurfaced due to global warming. This film takes place in Norwich, Norfolk and the surrounding countryside — and, now, I want to visit!

Neither of these films are particularly helpful as a “how to grow old” model, but they can help start difficult conversations that might make aging easier. Personally, I’m going to try to avoid living in a van. Although, I have to say, I’m glad to know it’s an option if all else fails.

What films help you contemplate growing old?

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