Edie tells the story of an 84-year-old woman who wants to fulfil a girlhood ambition by climbing a Scottish mountain. It stars the wonderful Sheila Hancock who has been criminally underused cinematically down the years — ‘I wasn’t considered attractive enough,’ she recently said. As there are anyway too few films featuring older women with their own narratives, I am absolutely desperate to be generous about this. That’s the aim. It won’t always be easy, frankly, but if there is one thing this film wants you to take away it is this: you’re never too old for a challenge.
At the outset, Edie is seen living under the hand of her husband. She’s been looking after him since he suffered a stroke 30 years earlier, but it was a stifling marriage anyhow. She was a drudge and, as we will later learn, he was one of those men who, if she ever spent any money, would query: ‘What do you need that for?’ After his death, her daughter ships her off to a retirement home where she is not happy. Instead, she is furious and scissors off the heads of flowers during a flower-arranging class, then sits there with a face of thunder. It is most satisfying, truly. Terrific, that bit. But next she discovers an old postcard sent by her father showing the Scottish mountain Suilven, and on the back he has written: we’ll one day climb it together, kid. They never did, so could she? Will she? Climb it herself? This isn’t an especially original story, you may say, but you’re not committed to being generous, as I am, so go take a hike yourself.
Written by Elizabeth O’Halloran and directed by Simon Hunter, the film has Edie arriving in Scotland, where she meets young Jonny (Kevin Guthrie), the co-owner of the local mountaineering shop who offers to train her for the ascent. She is prickly and stubborn and bad-tempered initially. He is only in it for the money, initially. But as they walk amid the stunning scenery and camp amid the stunning scenery and fry up sausages amid the stunning scenery, they bond and form a friendship, also amid the stunning scenery. You certainly won’t feel short-changed, scenery-wise. Similarly, you won’t feel short-changed violin-wise. At emotional moments, several orchestras’-worth seem to play in the background. You get a lot of scenery and a lot of violins for your buck, is what I’m saying. Generously.
I desperately wanted to love Edie, andI did give it every chance, I think, but I just could not love it as I wished. It does have its qualities. It wants to be ‘uplifting’ about old age and isn’t all miserablist like Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years, say, or Michael Haneke’s Amour, which is a relief. And Hancock is a terrific actress, nailing despair, determination, pain, joy. But while Edie may be adventurous, the material plainly isn’t. It’s a mash-up of highly familiar genres — the Unlikely Bedfellows one; the Triumph Over the Odds one — and it’s treacly and formulaic, with a script that spells out what is on everyone’s mind. ‘I really need to do this,’ she might say. ‘I thought you were a cantankerous cow but now I think you’re kind of inspirational,’ Jonny might say. To be fair, if this is your sort or thing and you plan to watch Marigold Hotel for the 29th time, you will like it. But if you’re up for a challenge? Not so much.