HOW ABOUT YOU
Since the death of her husband, Kate (Orla Brady) has concentrated on running a residential home for elderly residents in the Irish countryside. When her mother is ill, Kate reluctantly leaves her impetuous, younger sister Ellie (Hayley Atwell) in charge. It is Christmas and most of the residents have left to spend the festive season with their families. Remaining at the home are four grumpy and difficult residents: retired screen beauty Georgia (Vanessa Redgrave), spinster sisters Hazel (Imelda Staunton) and Heather (Brenda Fricker), and reformed alcoholic High Court judge, Donald (Joss Ackland). It's a baptism of fire for Ellie whose youth and inexperience bring her head to head with the cantankerous foursome.
Review by Louise Keller:
You know that warm glow that comes over you, when you're sitting by a crackling fire? That's how I felt watching this gentle and uplifting glimpse into the lives of four senior citizens battling against their own demons, preconceptions and phobias about ageing. Based on a short story by Maeve Binchy, Jean Pasley's screenplay captures all the nuances of frustration, regret, resentment, loneliness, joy and companionship as we meet diverse characters thrown together like a dysfunctional family. Symbolically, the autumn leaves are falling as they make way for the chill of winter. Independent and outspoken, Hayley Atwell's Ellie becomes the catalyst who changes both the mood and set of the relationships. Vanessa Redgrave heads a superb ensemble cast whose journey from conflict to resolution is warm, engaging, sad and funny.
We get to hear the film's title tune (from Babes on Broadway) several times, as sung by Redgrave's effervescent former movie star Georgia, who craves not only applause, but an endless supply of dry martinis. I couldn't keep my eyes off Redgrave as she inhabits the free-spirited Georgia. There are poignant moments when she examines every detail of her striking face in the mirror, commenting 'I keep forgetting I'm old,' and others that are joyously frivolous when she is intent on obtaining the olives for her favoured drink. Joss Ackland brings real pathos to his alcoholic retired judge Donald, whose booming deep voice couches his deep sense of regret while Imelda Staunton and Brenda Fricker are the bickering spinster sisters who have sheltered each other from life's stings. Orla Brady's Kate conveys only too well the conscientious woman who has buried herself in her job, while Atwell's Ellie is a breath of fresh air, intimidated by no-one and ready to give anyone a lashing of her tongue (or a joint of marijuana).
Director Anthony Byrne guides us beautifully from animosity to understanding. We feel Ellie's exasperation being woken up at 3.30am for martini-duty and to make soft boiled eggs with soldier toasts two hours later. Meals are thrown at the walls, doors slammed and guests go walkabout. How to salvage Christmas when the ground is white with snow, but hearts are agitated? It is a pleasure to watch the solution unravel. For those who loved Boynton Beach Club and Calendar Girls, this is a film rich with emotion, and one that warms the heart.
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HOW ABOUT YOU (M)
CAST: Vanessa Redgrave, Joss Ackland, Hayley Atwell, Brenda Fricker, Imelda Staunton, Orla Brady
PRODUCER: Noel Pearson, Sarah Radclyffe
DIRECTOR: Anthony Byrne
SCRIPT: Jean Pasley (short story by Maeve Binchy)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Des Whelan
EDITOR: Emma E. Hickox
MUSIC: Niall Byrne
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tom McCullagh
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 24, 2008