The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) has opened the floodgates for seniors’ romances. Not everyone wants to sit through two hours of smash-ups, chases and hallucinogenic CGI (without the hallucinogens), so it’s pleasing that producers have cottoned on to a previously neglected demographic – ie, a generation whose experience of life has led them to hope for more than just smoke and mirrors and titillation in a movie. This is one such movie. Sandra (Imelda Staunton) springs her husband Mike (John Sessions) having it off with another woman. Devastated that this relationship has been going on for five years, she flees to the London council flat of her previously estranged sister, Bif (Celia Imrie). A Bohemian by nature, Bif still smokes joints with her mate Charlie (Timothy Spall) and, through dancing classes and swims in the icy pond at Hampstead Heath, she opens up a whole new world for Sandra. Lest you forget that growing old is more than just a cheery amble through get-togethers and pints at the pub, there is the sad circumstance of Charlie’s wife, who is in permanent care, suffering the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. The three leads, with excellent support from David Hayman and the still gorgeous Joanna Lumley, are a joy (Spall is much more comfortable in the role of an ordinary bloke than the famous painter Turner), and the value of true friendship shown to be priceless. What does it matter if it’s obvious where the story is headed from even before halfway through if the journey takes your heart with it. The film might so easily have gone pear shaped by relying too much on sentimentality and the idiotic assumption that old people need to be convinced that nobody is counting the years, but director Richard Loncraine keeps it real, if not entirely plausible – the dance group’s all-expenses-paid invitation to perform at a festival in Rome is a bit of a stretch, but by then you’re happy to go with the flow. I loved it
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