GOLDEN YEARS,UK, 2016. StarringBernard Hill, Virginia Mc Kenna, Alun Armstrong, Una Stubbs, Simon Callow, Sue Johnston, Brad Moore. Directed by John Miller. 96 minutes. Rated PG (Mild themes, coarse language and sexual references).
Within the first few minutes of this film, we realise that the title is rather ironic. We visit a home for the elderly and find an official in charge explaining the “offerings “for the residents – that is, what they eat. We find one of the elderly men interned to keep them under control. And just as Arthur (Bernard Hill) goes to an office for a complaint, he is told that the company that he used to work for has gone bust which will severely limit his pension (and he’s assured that the letter is accurate because it came through at 5 AM, Delhi time). For some minutes, we might suspect that we are in Ken Loach territory – and, in fact, Daniel Blake might enjoy this film.
In fact, Golden Years is somewhere in between Ken Loach and masked robbers bank jobs like Point Break.
The setting is a rather sunny Bristol. And the two central characters are Arthur and his wife, Martha, yes Arthur and Martha, Martha played of all people by Virginia Mc Kenna. For older moviegoers it is a treat to see Virginia Mc Kenna again, heroine of action and war films in the first part of the 1950s, star of A Town like Alice, in the 60s doing animal films in Africa with her husband, Bill Travers, like Born Free. A check reveals that she was born in 1931. Also born in the 1930s, 1937, is Una Stubbs, very well known for televisions Till Death do us Part and, more recently, Mrs Hudson to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. Una Stubbs is Shirley and is married to a rather exhibitionist Royston (Simon Callow in a rather exhibitionist performance), a very theatrical type, a big fish in a rather small pond. Rounding out the chief oldies is Brian, Phil Davis,
The group and their neighbours spend a lot of time down at the local club, chatting, drinks, a touch of dancing, and, every fortnight (because it is becoming too expensive to bring it every week) a bingo night.
So, what about the banks and Point Break masks?
You will enjoy seeing how Arthur comes across a treasure trove of money from a security van by accident (literally, the security guard tripping on Arthur’s cart). Off he goes. Luckily, Brian and the others explain the dye that is put on the cash – which Arthur is able to avoid and uses the proceeds to buy a caravan to take Martha on a tour of the regional stately homes.
Once bitten, try again. Nobody notices the two elderly people with their cart, and the police are baffled. The chief investigator is played by Alun Armstrong and his name is Sid (but he is not vicious) – and, would you know, his wife is Nancy (Sue Johnston).
A final crisis gives everybody the opportunity to a bit do a bit of point breaking, to get enough money to save the club which is to be sold to developers. And poor Sid, who is moving towards retirement, is continually being upstaged by his vain associate Stringer (Brad Moore), in it for self-glory – which, of course, he does not achieve.
There are some continuity gaps which make the last bank exploit a bit difficult to follow – but, it is all in a good cause (which somebody says robbers always say, but the final stash is that which is being kept for bonuses for bank chiefs!).
The film should do good business at day sessions with busloads of senior citizens enjoying the film and some sandwiches and cakes – but, in its own undemanding way, risking a few risqué asides, it is an entertaining British pastime.
Transmission Released 1st December
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.