This little British film is one of the very few movies actually aimed at older
audiences. Most of the actors are older, because all the action takes place in
a nursing home, or more specifically, a retirement center for retired
The swanky estate and the luscious landscaping and the beautiful, stately,
grounds represent perhaps everyone’s fantasy of what refined retirement
living would be like. The staff is young and attentive and oh-so-polite, even
when fending off untoward comments or unsolicited malapropisms. The residents
are extraordinarily talented, not only in singing but also in playing
instruments, piano and strings and trumpet and clarinet. At the end, in the
credits, we not only get to see the incredible array of real talent assembled,
but also the photographs of them when they were younger, and in the prime of
their performance careers.
Ah, yes, performing. That’s sort of the whole plot, that in addition to
random rehearsing throughout the day, everyone is gearing up for the great
annual Verdi tribute, climaxed by the La Boheme quartet. Alas, one of the
usual participants has suddenly taken ill----something that happens with
distressing regularity around there. But then a famous former opera singer
(Maggie Smith) suddenly is the newest resident, and the program appears saved.
Until she makes it clear that she will have no part in it.
Alas, it seems that once, long ago, she had a brief first marriage with one of
the leading men there, and he has never forgiven her, nor ever gotten over it.
He never re-married. She, on the other hand, married twice more, but none very
happily. She was always married to her career, and that took precedence over
raising a family, as well. In fact, that’s the case with most. There
aren’t many young visitors----grown children or young grandchildren, and the
ones that do come are apparently expected to give concerts, as well. We’ll
tolerate youthful musical error, you see, because we all remember how it’s
supposed to be played.
Those of us who are getting older ourselves will find some of the dynamics
here all too familiar. None of us are as energetic as we used to be. Time has
ravaged us all. Sometimes we don’t even resemble our youthful selves any
more. Other times we don’t seem to be able to prevent ourselves from
degenerating into sad self-caricatures. Yes, we’re forgetful. And don’t
forget crochety. We cherish our grudges even when we have forgotten why. And
those of us who were musicians, even if rank amateurs, can also lay claim to
But in the end, we can choose to deal with what life deals to us graciously,
or we can be in a snit about it all the time, and when we see others doing
that, well, it just isn’t very appealing to witness. Yes, some of us are
going to have difficulty moving, and others of us have problems with our
balance, and though we all have trouble remembering, some of us are mentally
slipping faster than others. Yes, of course, some of the past is more vivid
than the present, because we were young and vivacious then, and did memorable
things, and now, well, sometimes the days seem to run together because
they’re all so similar. Which is why the benefit concert is so important.
Yes, sure the climactic quartet is heard from a distance, but most of us would
prefer to be seen from a distance, anyway (and bad lighting helps, too).
Better than lip-synching, right?
Yes, there’s no fool like an old fool. And we’ll prove it to you. Right
after we’ve enjoyed being irascible and recalcitrant.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving,