Director: John Miller
Starring: Bernard Hill, Virginia McKenna, Simon Callow, Philip Davis, Una Stubbs, Sue Johnson, Brad Moore and Alun Armstrong
Running Time: 97 minutes
Silver Cinema is in something of a golden age. From THE BEST MARIGOLD HOTEL and QUARTET to LAST VEGAS and RED, the wave of retirement comedies has significantly increased over the past few years, with writer/director John Miller bringing his Ealing-inspired caper into the mix with GOLDEN YEARS.
GOLDEN YEARS tells the story of retired couple Arthur and Martha Goode (Bernard Hill and Virginia McKenna) whose simple life is put at risk when they lose their pension. Forced to go to extreme lengths, the law abiding couple decide to fight back – by robbing banks. And when their local bowling and social club is put at risk, they bring their friends in on the secret in order to pull off their biggest job yet.
Light-hearted, fun and easy-to-watch, GOLDEN YEARS is a quintessentially British feel-good film. The simple yet entertaining script (which was curiously co-written by Nick Knowles of DIY SOS fame) is sweetly funny, striking a fine balance between comedy and pathos and while the plot occasionally meanders, it is full of heart.
Much of the comedy comes from the story and the situation. As expected from a comedy caper in which an unlikely bunch of pensioners continually bamboozle the police, there are a few daft sketches involving hidden bananas and cucumbers. On the whole however, the script derives most of its humour from the characters’ advanced years with a conversation between McKenna and Una Stubbs about their lack of “slap and tickle” standing out as one of the film’s funniest moments.
The film boasts a cast of seasoned veterans from the world of television and film. Bernard Hill and Virginia McKenna take on the lead roles as Arthur and Martha Goode while Sue Johnston, Alun Armstrong, Simon Callow, Una Stubbs, Mark Williams and Phil Davis all lend their considerable talents as the supporting cast.
While Hill emerges with the most credit as the accidental bank robber, disappointingly the rest of the cast are stuck with one-dimensional characters which we never really get to know. There is potential for some real moments of humanness here but instead of being explored, they are overlooked, which is a shame considering the talent involved.
Right from the opening scene, it’s also clear to see where the story is going. The plot is simple and predictable and some of the writing is a little on the nose and lacking certain nuances.
That said, there is plenty of heart in GOLDEN YEARS and the film’s sobering message about declining pension values, care homes and the attitudes of the young towards older people leaves a lasting impression.
Despite its low budget (an estimated £2,500,000 according to IMDb), the film also boasts some nice cinematography, with the director Miller making the most of the British countryside and National Trust properties with wide panoramic shots.
GOLDEN YEARS may lack the style and elegance of silver cinema favourites such as THE BEST MARIGOLD HOTEL and QUARTET, but its British charm, gentle humour and down-to-earth setting make it appealing nevertheless. Overall, a tender film that has its heart in the right place.
GOLDEN YEARS is released on DVD on 29 August.