Edie (2017) – a personal response to the film

Last weekend I saw the 2017 film Edie (dir: Simon Hunter) at Fellini’s in Ambleside http://m.zeffirellis.com, followed by a meal in the restaurant. In the film Sheila Hancock plays an eighty three year old woman whose manipulative invalid husband has recently died. Despite the efforts of her daughter to place her in a care home she decides to fulfil a nearly forgotten dream of climbing Suilven after she finds a postcard sent many years earlier by her father. I was really looking forward to seeing the film as I’ve never been to that part of Scotland and it’s on my wish list. I also had high hopes of seeing an active older woman starring in a movie about the outdoors.

I have to say that the landscape did not disappoint. The cinematography was excellent, capturing the magnificence of the hills and the capricious nature of the weather. The camera flies like an eagle through the hills, gliding past the dramatic peaks that rise like whalebacks from the surrounding wilderness. The wide open spaces contrast well with the constraints of her previous life, confined for thirty years to a world narrowed by duty. Suddenly her grey existence erupts into colour and beauty.

The landscape is the real star in this film despite quality acting from both Sheila Hancock as Edie and Kevin Guthrie as Jonny the young outdoor shop owner. But sadly the script was sentimental and technically inaccurate. I had to hang onto my seat to prevent myself calling out at the screen as dangerous practices and ridiculous behaviours followed closely one after another. The storyline was inconsistent too, with characters and plot being underdeveloped. The relationship between Jonny and his girlfriend seemed unlikely; the unkindness and anger of the daughter after she had read her mother’s diaries seemed unnecessarily cruel; the bothy interior, with its boudoir of blazing fire, copious candles, and weirdly mute rabbit catcher was bizarre (was it actually intended to portray delirium brought on by hypothermia, I wonder?); and why would anyone allow an underprepared and vulnerable person to venture alone into the hills without close supervision? In addition, the film was clearly sponsored by Fjallraven and Primus (plus others) with a token Swedish girl popping up briefly beside a loch, and too obvious product placement throughout.

This was a film with so much potential and I so wanted to enjoy it fully. The story of a friendship across the generations, with both main characters having the opportunity to learn so much from one another was hinted at but not developed, just relegated to stereotypes. There was no resolution at the end and, whilst I like being dealt questions that tantalise my imagination, in this instance I felt short-changed by the writer and director. I thoroughly admire Sheila Hancock’s willingness to take herself out of her comfort zone, to do all her own ‘stunts’ and climb the mountain but this excellent role model for older women did not quite save the film.

And yet. And yet – at times I found myself quite deeply moved by the intention of the story and the glory of the mountains. The leading role played by the landscape saved the day: all credit to the cameramen and to the Scottish wilds for being so photogenic. I was left feeling both uplifted and frustrated in equal measure.

And all credit to Fellini’s for an outstanding meal afterwards, full of flavour and nuance. I was still waxing lyrical about it days later.

…and I’m even keener to visit the northwest of Scotland.

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