Mad Maud had found the perfect movie at the cinema. She’d ranged back through the streets, jumping onto bins and gazing meaningfully into the distance, buoyed by the film she’d just seen, would explain to us in some detail, and, come the digital release this week, force us into the TV room to watch as one. Her pitch? Old biddy goes up mountain. An old biddy called Edie.
There’s a pop combo out there called Runrig. They have a cracking song that old Jack here wants played at his funeral. The lyric is something like: “there must be a place, under the sun, where hearts of olden glory grow young.” I play it on Sunday afternoons, very loudly indeed. It rocks down the corridors, into the rooms of the ancient and the demented, and brings them to the doors of their sanctums, eyes a-sparkle, memories triggered, or emptiness punctured. And as such is Sheila Hancock‘s Edie, stuffed with regret for marrying a controlling man, supporting him for 30 years after a stroke silenced his criticism, and, when death grabs him, starting that long stare. For she has memories of before-him, olden glory unachieved, and we join her as those memories drive her to climb a mountain.
Yup – it’s a ‘give it one more go, grandma’ film, her 85 year-old frailties putting her into slow motion for the first hour, rowing with a daughter who wants her in a home (where, it has to be said, the inmates look stupid as well a decrepit), and taking her to the Highlands. And not your rubbishy highlands of every country on Earth that isn’t Scotland, no; we’re talking western Sutherland, remote, heart-clenchingly beautiful, with a weird-looking mountain: Suilven. For Edie’s dream in happy youth was to climb that one in particular. Or something.
Anyway, she’s all inspired to do the climb. Happy accident brings her into Jonny’s ambit, a climber, fisherman, the-gear-you’ll-need shop worker lucky enough to be played by Kevin Guthrie in full Gaelic decency mode. Irritated acquaintances become climbing-trainer and pupil and ultimately friends, but not before Edie sets off alone…
The film misses a few beats during this part of the story, riding along on the images and a soundtrack that swells its emotional chest to make you swell yours. It’s gorgeous, undoubtedly, but all a bit much given what Edie regrets and the drabness of her early scenes. She looks too good in the climbing gear, no matter the camera’s penchant for swinging round Hancock’s face to bring out the age of the woman.
But…we all got Maud’s crazy joy from her first viewing. A film about an old person where their age is less a theme than an inconvenience for character goals, well, that’s rare. Hancock is entrancing, whether the scene knocks her dignity or wants to eulogise the moment while she’s still gazing out of it.
If I have a problem, it’s that Edie escapes her past the second the husband is dead, then again when her feet hit Scots railway platform, then again when she dumps the beige for the multi-coloured…so there’s no real doubt how the story will end and not much fresh actualisation as it soars to its sun-kissed, swirly camera-ed, told-you-so conclusion. Edie’s demons were long-dead.
But you must give it a go. At worst it is a rare thing for oldsters to be so practically represented. At best, it’ll cheer your soul and make you jump bins.