CLOUDBURST. Starring Olympia Dukakis, Brenda Fricker, Ryan Doucette. Directed by Thom Fitzgerald. MA 15+ (Strong coarse language, nudity and crude humour). 89 minutes.
It is being said that, at least in Australia, there is a growing audience of senior citizens enjoy going to the cinema. The criticism is that there are not enough films for this audience, so much being made for teenage audiences and young adults.
Here is a film with elderly characters at its centre. However, a warning is probably needed to caution the potential audience as to whether they want to see the film or not. The subject matter is still controversial. And this particular film has a great deal of raunchy dialogue, some of which might put Melissa McCarthy, star of Bridesmaids and The Heat, into the shade. However, the film wants us to see through the raunchiness and the sexual references to the tenderness and the dignity of the central characters.
Olympia Dukakis plays the 80 year old Stella, almost 80 herself at the time of making the film. Brenda Fricker plays her companion, Dot. They have been together in a relationship for 31 years. They live quietly in the northeast of the United States. However, Dot has become blind and is, even though very patient, dependent on Stella. She has been married and her granddaughter is very concerned and wants to get power of attorney. And she arranges for Dot to go into an institution.
The film shows the effect on Stella who gets Dot out of the institution and, somewhat on impulse, they decide to go to Canada to be legally married.
The film then becomes a road movie, from Maine up into Canada, through beautiful countryside, especially with the water, lakes and coast. The women decide to pick up a hitchhiker, a provocative young man, Prentice, who has been something of an exotic dancer in New York, but wants to go home to see his dying mother. In many ways, the audience sees the two women through his eyes as he listens to them, shares their journey, is puzzled by them. He is played by Ryan Doucette.
We get to know the women much better. Stella, very masculine in her style and mistaken in the diner for a man, has a very tough exterior, brought about by surviving in a critical world. She is certainly very earthy in her outlook, her language, her references. But this also masks a tenderness, and affection and love for Dot, no matter how am disabled Dot becomes.
There are two key episodes to follow. The first is Prentice arriving home, the encounter with his ill mother, the clash with his father and some odd the comedy with Dot and his father. The second is arriving in the town and the arrangements for celebrating the wedding, Stella making demands but also phoning the granddaughter. There is some mix-up, and some pathos at the end, with Prentice once again helping the two women. They intend for him to come home with them.
As a film about old age, it has much to offer in terms of mutual love and support, especially through times of illness. As a film about same-sex relationships, it is one of those films, whether one is in sympathy with the situation or not, whether from religious and moral perspectives or from secular tradition, which presents characters in real life and challenges audience with the human and emotional dimension to give a perspective to a rational response.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Opens July 11 2013.