Saturday, 11 February 2012


Palace Films
Now Showing

There are only two inevitabilities in life: taxes and death, and the former is a burden you bear from the beginning of your working life. Death, on the other hand, can come at any time but if you're lucky, you'll live to a ripe old age. And it's old age which is the focus of Julie Gavras' comedy of manners, Late Bloomers.

Mary (Isabella Rossellini) and Adam (William Hurt) have been a long time, happily married couple with three adult children and four grandchildren. They're both about 60 years old and look good for their age, especially Mary, a recently retired language teacher; Adam's a partner in a London architecture firm.

But when she suffers from a minor memory lapse, Mary is quietly alarmed. Has her age finally caught up with her? If her mother, Nora (Doreen Mantle), is any indicator, she needn't be too worried. Nora, who lives in the apartment next door to her daughter and son-in-law, leads an active social life and seems to still have her wits about her.

Still, in an attempt to ward off decrepitude, Mary takes up aqua-aerobics and throws herself into volunteer work with her best friend, Charlotte (Joanna Lumley). Conversely, Mary also decides to meet old age head-on: age-proofing her apartment with bath rails, automated beds, and a large-numbered keypad phone.

All of these actions send Adam spinning in the opposite direction. Having recently been commissioned to design a retirement home (his firm's ethos is to undertake projects other firms traditionally wouldn't), Adam's thoughts had already turned to the prospect of getting old.

But rather than embrace it like his wife, he opts to have what is best described as a post-mid-life crisis: dressing younger, throwing in with his 20-something colleagues on a pro-bono museum design project, and drinking Red Bull like it was water.

Co-written with Olivier Dazat, Late Bloomers is the second feature by Julie Gavras, daughter of Costa Gavras, an esteemed director known for his political dramas (see Z (1969) and Missing (1982)). But there's nothing political or radical about Late Bloomers other than its focus on ageing and people of 'a certain age', a subject rarely broached by filmmakers.

Not that Late Bloomers is an overly insightful or even realistic examination of two people's coming to terms with their impending entry into the geriatric club. The lightly comic he said-she said (or, more appropriately, he did-she did) approach is intended to entertain rather than educate the audience.

Still, I have no doubt the intended audience (the post-middle aged through to the so called 'late bloomers') will enjoy the film's mildly comic tone and performances. Isabella Rossellini is an interesting screen presence who makes 60 (which she will be in June) both appealing and alluring. William Hurt, on the other hand, is a little too grizzled and subdued here, and his English accent often wavers.

But the 72-year-old Doreen Mantle (whose resume includes The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), Yentl (1983), and a decade on British TV's One Foot In The Grave) provides both them, and the film, with some much needed pep, which I guess underlines the overall point of Late Bloomers: that you're only as old as you feel.

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