This is a very British comedy about the refusal to accept the health and financial limitations of old age. Retired couple Arthur (Bernard Hill) and Martha (Virginia McKenna) lead a comfortable house in a middle-class neighbourhood of Bristol. They seem to have all they need, except that Martha does not get to do her desired trips, such as visiting national parks.
Suddenly, they see their life savings and pension pot dwindle due to an unforeseen technicality. Martha’s health is also jeopardised as she suffers from Chron’s disease, and the NHS’s postcode lottery mandates that the old couple have to pay for the treatment themselves. Also, their beloved social club is seriously under financial threat. This predicament triggers the couple and their friends to take matters into their hand embarking on a spree of bank robberies. Ironically, they choose to use masks of old people while engaging in the criminal act.
Golden Years deals with very urgent and pertinent social themes such as the shortcomings of the health and the pension system – in a country which is ageing very quick – in a very lighthearted and humorous way. While cute and easily digestible, this movie is not a very enticing experience throughout.
The film has several screwball elements, such as a door repeatedly hitting someone’s nose and a pensioner seemingly having a heart attack while emulating the sound of a machine gun. At times it feels like Lavender Hill Mob (Charles Crichton, 1951) or another Ealing comedy. But here the humour feels trite and hackneyed, and it does not gel together with the dramatism of the plot. Golden Years might make you smile, but it will neither elicit copious laughter nor make you cry.
The acting is touching and convincing, but the plot has so many loose ends – such as the Chron’s aspect, which is never explored further. The script does not allow for the actors to develop their characters to the full. All in all, the film lacks vigour and cheek.
The film Golden Years has many similarities with The Full Monty (Peter Cattaneo, 1997), where a bunch unemployed men in Sheffield resort to stripping in order to make ends meet. The difference is that the characters here are older and instead of flashing their bits, their sport bananas disguised as weapons. There is yet another problem with John Miller’s film: Bristol and the Cotswolds – where most of the action takes place – hardly feels like the impoverished North of England.
Golden Years is out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 22nd.