I dare say that I have said this before, but Hollywood could learn a lot from the English film industry with regard to creating roles for older actors and this latest effort from Richard Loncraine follows in the footsteps of other recent releases such as Hampstead, The Lady in the Van, The Time of Their Lives and many more before that put senior characters at the forefront of the narrative, harnessing the talents of experienced performers. With Finding Your Feet, Loncraine has gathered an ensemble with than 200 collective years of experience on stage and screen and whilst none of them are presented with anything particularly challenging in what is a somewhat slight story, it is certainly more substantial (and entertaining) than a lot of the rank rubbish that makes its way onto cinema screens.
Set ostensibly in London, the film opens at the country manor of Mike (John Sessions) and Sandra (Imelda Staunton) as friends and family gather to celebrate Mike’s retirement. When Sandra discovers her husband of 40+ years in a compromising position with another woman, she sets forth to reconnect with her bohemian sister Bif (Celia Imrie), who lives in a small flat on a council estate that is a far cry from the luxury to which she is accustomed. This is a classic fish-out-of-water story that is very predictable but still some fun nonetheless. Much tension ensues during the early days of Sandra’s relocation as she struggles to understand how Bif could possibly be happy. However, over time, Sandra comes to realise that her sister seems completely content with her life, extracting joy from the simple things and devoting her life to various causes.
As Sandra’s judgemental sense of superiority begins to thaw, she opens herself up to the possibility of finding new love with Charlie (Timothy Spall), a pot-smoking furniture restorer who lives on a boat. However, as is always the case, the path to true love is littered with obstacles which, in this case, include the fact that both Sandra and Charlie are still married to others. Whilst Sandra struggles to let go of the only life and love she has ever known, Charlie is left with little option given the circumstances with regard to his wife’s health. It is often the case that older people are mocked and ridiculed on screen and there is a bit of that here with Loncraine chasing the easy laughs, in this case working on the theory that senior citizens getting high is funny simply because they are old. A stoned septuagenarian is, apparently, comic gold. However, amid musings on love, happiness and mortality, there are some genuinely funny moments and it is Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous) who gets the best lines as Jackie, a member of Bif’s dance class, a weekly gathering that is as much about friendship and support than it is about dancing.
Whilst the script by Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft is riddled with clichés, chases easy laughs and signals every plot development well in advance, there is an authenticity in the design, from the furniture and handmade Christmas decorations in Bif’s flat to the boats moored on the canal. Sure, death and terminal illness form part of the narrative and, whilst the film doesn’t shy away from the pain, the humour and sadness co-exist in a way that could teach us a lot about how we deal with death. Whilst a jaunt to Italy seems somewhat unnecessary and has seemingly been included purely as a pretext for a confession from Bif about her past that is a somewhat contrived and emotionally manipulative moment, Finding Your Feet is a pleasant, if somewhat predictable, comedy-drama that never really takes advantage of the wealth of talent within its midst.