Oh, come on. How difficult can it be? Every week, watch a film and write about it in an interesting, informative and (if appropriate) amusing way. But, for the second year in a row, I have failed in my challenge to view 50 movies in a year. I only managed 31. Actually, it is 31.5 as I fell asleep half way through ‘A Little Chaos‘ this evening – sorry, Kate (Winslet).
Part of my failure has been that I was also trying to read 50 books during the year, and reading is my first love – I’d rather read a novel than watch a film. Nevertheless, there have been some great viewing moments over the past 12 months and I’ve ordered the movies I did see into the following list, best to worst. Just for fun, there is no critical appraisal here!
What was your must-see film this year? I started 2015 with ‘The Theory of Everything‘ and Eddie Redmayne re-appears in ‘The Danish Girl‘, released tomorrow. I’m planning to get to the cinema to see it – and maybe 49 other films in 2016!
There was no way really that I was not going to enjoy this film. Set in Scotland (including beach scenes from Gairloch) and starring both Billy Connolly and David Tennant, it would have to be pretty dire for me not to have liked it. Thankfully it is not dreadful and, even if you are not a fan of all things Caledonian, I’m sure you will find plenty to make you smile in this gentle film.
Abi (Rosamund Pike) and her husband, Doug (David Tennant), are living separately and negotiating their divorce via lawyers, after Doug was unfaithful. Their three children are aware of their Dad’s infidelity but when the whole family travels North to stay with Doug’s father, everyone is sworn to secrecy about the situation. Gordie (Billy Connolly) is approaching his 75th birthday but has terminal cancer; as this birthday celebration will probably be his last, Doug doesn’t want it to be marred by the news of his son’s marital problems. The family manages to keep up the pretence for a while once they arrive in Scotland, but the children are not great liars and before long they have inadvertently let slip the whole story. As the preparations for the birthday party gather pace, managed with military precision by Doug’s brother, Gavin (Ben Miller), Gordie escapes to the beach with the children. Chilling with his grand-kids, Gordie is clearly relaxed and happy. But when he is taken ill, Lottie, Mickey and Jess take some decisions which show they are more in tune with Grandad than the grown-ups are.
Directed by the makers of the TV series ‘Outnumbered’, many of the film scenes involving the children are improvised rather than closely scripted. This results in some hilarious comedy as the young actors ignore social conventions and say what they think. Equally telling are the adults’ reactions to the dialogue and I rather got the feeling that in several of the scenes, they have forgotten that they are acting and react spontaneously to the children. I’ve never met Billy Connolly so I don’t actually know what he is like, but during ‘What We Did On Our Holiday‘ my guess is that he wasn’t doing much acting at all; he was getting paid to be himself! His delight in the children, and the affable way in which he ridicules the vanities and pretences of his family greatly contribute to the charm of this film.
There is a message at the core of the movie, about being true to yourself and making the most of the opportunities that life presents. Nothing ground-breaking, and the audience is rolled along in the genial sway of the story without a sense of being preached at.
In undertaking the 50/50 challenge this year, I have found it difficult to find films that seeped into my pores the way that some books have. But ‘What We Did On Our Holiday’ is one of the rare ones that has and I know I will be returning to it time and time again.
(Film available on Netflix.)
I’m a bit of a sucker for Billy Connolly and he joins a host of talented actors in this heart-warming film about a group of senior musicians in a retirement home, Beecham House. Wilf (Billy C), Reggie (Tom Courtenay), and the delightfully ditsy Cissy (Pauline Collins), are rehearsing for a fund-raising concert to be held at the home on October 10th, Verdi’s birthday. Their plans are thrown into confusion by the arrival of a new resident, soprano and Reggie’s ex-wife, Jean (Maggie Smith). It transpires that these four singers had made up the quartet in a famously successful recording of the aria “Bella figlia dell’ amore” from Verdi’s opera Rigoletto. The plot centres on whether Jean can be persuaded to join the trio for the benefit concert.
The film was directed by Dustin Hoffman and shot at the stunning Georgian Hedsor House in Taplow, Buckinghamshire, a beautiful backdrop to the story. The cast is certainly star-studded and I was not at all surprised to learn from the credits that many of the actors had enjoyed ‘real’ careers as musicians, singers and composers. It’s an uplifting story, reaffirming the fact that later life can be full of fun and laughter. As Dr Cogan (Sheridan Smith) asserts before the final concert ‘their love of life is infectious’.