Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. United Kingdom, 2006. Miramax, FilmFour, UK Film Council, Free Range Films. Screenplay by Hanif Kureishi. Cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos. Produced by Kevin Loader. Music by David Arnold, Corinne Bailey Rae. Production Design by Emma MacDevitt. Costume Design by Natalie Ward. Film Editing by Nicolas Gaster. Academy Awards 2006. Golden Globe Awards 2006. Toronto International Film Festival 2006.
Screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette, The Mother) continues his exploration of unusual relationships with this beautiful chamber piece about age and beauty. Three retired actors are thrown into a spin when the ailing member of their trio (Leslie Phillips) announces that he’s invited his grand-niece to come and stay with him as a sort of makeshift nurse. Played by newcomer Jodie Whittaker, the niece is an immediate nightmare, full of the vim, verve and utter disrespect of modern-day youth (not to mention possessing a handy talent for emptying beer bottles in record time), all qualities that immediately attract Phillips’s old friend Peter O’Toole. O’Toole takes an instant liking to the girl, and she to him, and soon the two find themselves thrown together in a few rather odd adventures that see sparks grow: he because it’s a last grasp at the bountiful treasures of life before he kicks off, and she because she’s finally met someone who makes her feel like she matters. It would be easy to get incensed by the politically incorrect nature of this story with its pretensions to a British Lost In Translation but with overtones of dirty old man obsession, but Kureishi isn’t really interested in exploiting the story. It’s more that two people who are exploiting each other magically find tenderness and friendship at the most unexpected moments. It’s a very low-key piece, buoyed beautifully by the magnificent acting by O’Toole and Whittaker, and the understated direction by Roger Michell.