Growing Old in Film #BriFri
Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Last week, I talked about Brexit (by the time you read this post, we may know how it turned out!). Heather reviewed the alternate history Arabella of Mars — what if Britain colonized Mars in the 1600s? Tina reviewed the classic novel The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier. Jackie finished sharing her photos from her 2005 trip to Ireland with lots of sights in Dublin. For Father’s Day, Sim shared stories about her well-traveled English father. Becky was all over Britain last week. She watched the film Testament of Youth, the mini-series And Then There Were None, two Winston Churchill movies, and the 8-episode Beatles Anthology documentary. Becky also read two children’s books by Roald Dahl: Matilda and Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Several of us have noted in our British Isles Friday posts that the British portray a greater variety of interesting faces in their films and television productions. Hollywood, in contrast, seems interested in showing only a narrowly-defined notion of beautiful people. I suspect this accounts for a greater willingness among British film makers to tackle the concept of aging. Older faces are beautiful, if you’re inclined to appreciate the unique marks of character and experience.
We watched two British films recently that featured older people.
The Lady in the Van stars Maggie Smith in a part almost polar opposite of the Dowager Countess of Grantham role she played in Downton Abbey. This was a reprise for Maggie Smith — she also played Mary Shepherd in a West End play production of The Lady in the Van and a BBC radio adaptation.
Based on a true story, The Lady in the Van parked her van / home in the driveway of author and playwright Alan Bennett, played by Alex Jennings (except for a brief appearance by the actual author near the end). Alan Bennett is famous for a number of things, but for book lovers, I recommend the delightful The Uncommon Reader.
We enjoyed The Lady in the Van for the humor, poignancy, and mystery. I also enjoyed the on-location set in the Camden Town neighborhood of London.
45 Years takes place in the few days preceding a couple’s 45th wedding anniversary party — and the few days after the husband receives word that the body of a woman he’d loved and lost to a fall in a glacier has resurfaced due to global warming. This film takes place in Norwich, Norfolk and the surrounding countryside — and, now, I want to visit!
Neither of these films are particularly helpful as a “how to grow old” model, but they can help start difficult conversations that might make aging easier. Personally, I’m going to try to avoid living in a van. Although, I have to say, I’m glad to know it’s an option if all else fails.
What films help you contemplate growing old?
I loved The Lady in the Van!! I also enjoyed the scenes of London.
45 Years sounds interesting.
By now you know I am an absolute Anglophile!!!
I am disappointed by the Brexit vote, I tend to like things to stay the same. However, I don’t live there to understand how the EU impacts their lives.
I’m surprised by the outcome! I thought they would stay, but I’m sympathetic to the dislike of creeping bureaucracy from the EU.
Hollywood used to be better at aging. I was talking with my teenager the other day about how there used to be plenty of TV shows about and for older folks–things like Matlock, Golden Girls, Murder She Wrote–which were just full of older people. Those seem to be gone now.
This week I’ve been trying to chronicle my UK trip on my blog, but it’s going slower than I’d like because I’m also working a lot. But pop on over to take a look— http://www.howlingfrog.blogspot.com
Unfortunately, bureaucracy was not the focus of the campaigns, and is not considered to be influential in the results.
The main influences were Immigration and the National Health Service (NHS) which is chronically underfunded. The Leave campaign stated that the £350 million a week sent to the EU would not be paid if the Brexit option was taken, and they are already backtracking on that one. Fears over people coming in from outside, taking jobs (or benefits or both) were played upon by campaigners in such a way that enough voters didn’t hear the counter claims by the Remain team.
People are already claiming that they didnt know it was going to hit us so hard and fast, whilst the Remain team are going “we’ve been telling you exactly this for week but you didnt listen”
As for the older people on TV and Film – there is definitely a difference between the way the US and the UK treat their actors (there’s a podcast from the RSC from a few years ago on exactly this subject).
During the podcast it was stated that Americans liked their actors to stay within their known sphere – so Film actors stayed in films, tv in tv etc. There was very little movement between the styles (I accept that with the move to channels like Netflix and HBO this will have changed).
However, in the UK we’re a lot more accepting that actors are actors, and need to work. So actors move between TV, Film and stage, and can win an award one week, and be doing a toilet paper advert the following week. It’s why many US actors come to London to do their Stage debut.
People from outside of UK have often told the Reduced Shakespare Company guys as to “how well the sci-fi guys do Shakespeare” (Patrick Stewart, David Tennant, Derek Jacobi, Ian McKellan etc). No, they’re not Sci-fi guys doing Shakespeare, they’re Royal Shakespeare trained actors hired to do scifi cos they can do the delivery and gravitas (this is why Stewart was hired to do Picard for instance)
There is still an issue for women in their 50s to get work, especially in film, but I grant you that it’s probably better in the UK, than the US. We do have a swathe of older women (Judi Dench, Maggie Smith) who have worked their way up the ranks, have proved how good they are at every age, and are still wanted for work.
There has always been a reasonable investment in drama on many of the channels, so that shows like Marple can have an all star cast with every episode. Long running shows like Casualty, Coronation Street and EastEnders allow for guest star spots as well as medium to long term character arcs. it’s not unusual to see actors starting on one show then moving through 2 or 3 of the others.
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