Richard Loncraine made the charming My House In Umbria (2003), and in his latest movie he has returned to the theme of place and how much our lives are ineradicably intertwined with it. Maggie Smith carried the day in Umbria and Loncraine has again called on a couple of veterans of the screen to tell his story – what a rare treat it is to see a film aimed at an audience that needs more than just bullet-proof goons performing in front of a green-screen for its stimulation.
Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton are both in fine form as Alex and Ruth, who are confronted with the emotional wrench of selling the Brooklyn apartment that they moved into as newlyweds forty years earlier. At a time when culturally we seem to be obsessed with real estate, knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing, it warms the cockles to be reminded of the human factor in such transactions. Not a lot out of the ordinary happens – the usual array of potential punters and voyeurs invade on open-house days while, as Ruth’s niece Lilly, Cynthia Nixon does a brilliant turn playing the agent who pulls out all stops and employs all the jargon in an effort to get the best price for the property. Ruth and Alex, in the meantime, are inspecting apartments that they might move to, and it is a process that inevitably leads them to reflect on their life together. Flashbacks link the past with the present, as they should, but they also open a door into the private world and memories that are part of the bricks and mortar. This is a slow-burn movie, with plenty of gentle and sometimes cutting humour to lighten the everyday drama that confronts the couple. Of the two secondary threads, the trauma surrounding the couple’s ailing dog Dorothy works much better than the inconsequential news cuts to the terrorist at large in the city, but Loncraine never veers too far from what makes us who we are.