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In the coming of (old) age tale, Late Bloomers, Mary (Isabella Rossellini) and Adam (William Hurt) portray a long time, happily married couple with three adult children and four grandchildren. Aged at around 60 and looking good for their age, Mary, a retired language teacher and Adam, a partner in a London Architecture firm, struggle with the inevitability of life. Death.
This struggle makes up the core plot of Julie Gavras’ comedy.
Mary suffers from a minor memory lapse and fears that her age has finally caught up with her, although she shouldn’t be too worried if her mother, Nora (Doreen Mantle) is any indicator of her elder years. Nora leads an active social life and has her wits about her, giving the audience a little more insight into life after sixty and adding a fantastic comedic touch.
The story then curves around Mary’s mad attempts to cling to youth. Mary takes up aqua-aerobics and throws herself and her best friend, Charlotte (Joanna Lumley) into volunteer work. This is contrasted and conflicted with her other actions. An eager scramble to meet old age head-on, age-proofing her apartment with bath rails, automated beds, and a large-numbered keypad phone (to Adam’s disgusted shock).
Adam, on the other hand, opts to have a type of post-mid-life crisis. He dresses younger, thowing in with her 20-something colleagues on a pro-bono museum project and drinking Red Bull like it’s water.
All of these actions send Adam spinning in the opposite direction. Having recently been commissioned to design a retirement home (his firm’s ethos is to undertake projects other firms traditionally wouldn’t), Adam’s thoughts had already turned to the prospect of getting old.
Co-written with Olivier Dazat, Late Bloomers is the second feature by Julie Gavras, daughter of Costa Gavras, an esteemed director known for his political dramas (see Z (1969) and Missing (1982)). But there’s nothing political or radical about Late Bloomers other than its focus on ageing and people of ‘a certain age’, a subject rarely broached by filmmakers.
Unfortunately, the film is not overly insightful and the over-examination of two people coming to terms with their mortality is a little bit as Mary insists on mentioning it in every statement she makes and the audience, instead of being left with the intended melancholic empathy, becomes merely frustrated by the repetition.
The comedic touch of he-said she-said (or rather, he-did she-did) also grows old (so to speak) and has been used many times before in a much more effectual way.
Still, I have no doubt the intended audience (the post-middle aged through to the so called ‘late bloomers’) will enjoy the film’s mildly comic tone and performances. Isabella Rossellini is an interesting screen presence who makes 60 (which she will be in June) both appealing and alluring. William Hurt, on the other hand, is a little too grizzled and subdued here, and his English accent often wavers.