Senior empowerment receives a generous but flawed showcase with Simon Hunter’s drama about an octogenarian who attempts to achieve her goal of climbing a mountain in the Scottish Highlands. Featuring an excellent performance by veteran British actress Sheila Hancock (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas), who is clearly up to the challenging emotional and physical demands of the title role, Edie earns points for good intentions but never quite succeeds in managing to scale its thematic summit. The film will ultimately be best appreciated as a showcase for its lead actress and its spectacular Scottish locations.
It’s not hard to deduce from the get-go that the movie will depict the 83-year-old central character’s emotional liberation when her husband dies before the opening credits roll. It turns out that Edie has been caring for her wheelchair-bound, stroke-victim husband for the past 30 years. Her daughter (Wendy Morgan) immediately makes plans for her to enter an old-age home, but Edie has other plans.
She impulsively leaves on a train to Inverness, hoping to fulfill a decades-long dream to climb nearby Mount Suilven. Decades earlier, her father had sent her a postcard of the fabled mountain, proposing that they someday climb it together. But Edie’s domineering husband forbade her from going, and her father died before she could make it happen.
The film’s premise would seem promising for a story about a senior citizen proving that she can achieve anything she sets her mind to. Unfortunately, the screenplay by Elizabeth O’Halloran (director Hunter is credited with the idea, while Edward Lynden-Bell receives a nod for the story) proves both hackneyed and lacking in depth. A prime example of the former is the introduction of the second major character in the story, whom Edie first encounters in hokey, meet-cute fashion when he and his girlfriend literally mow her down while they’re hurrying to catch a train. He turns out to be Jonny (Kevin Guthrie, Dunkirk), who happens to own a local camping store and offers to put Edie up in his apartment for the night.
Jonny, whose business is struggling, offers to be Edie’s guide climbing the mountain, hoping to take financial advantage of the old lady’s situation. No points for guessing that once the pair start making the climb, they begin to develop a friendship and mutual respect (but thankfully not a Harold and Maude-style attraction) that will dramatically affect their perspectives.
Again, it’s a perfectly viable setup, but the film never explores it in emotionally satisfying fashion. Instead, it’s content to resort to cheap laughs or shock effects, such as when Edie gets knocked down (again!) in a bar while socializing with Jonny and his buddy (Paul Brannigan). For a film that purports to be an inspirational tale, Edie seems awfully eager to use its central character as a bowling pin.
Nor is the relationship between Edie and Jonny developed in particularly interesting fashion. When a dramatic highlight involves Edie’s grudgingly agreeing to drink beer out of a can and then finding it a satisfying experience, you know that some major script polishing would have been in order. It also becomes quickly apparent that director Hunter, whose previous credits include the 1999 thriller Lighthouse and 2008’s sci-fi actioner Mutant Chronicles, has little affinity for this sort of sensitive material.
Thankfully, Hancock lends the proceedings a certain gravitas with an astute, understated performance in which she never begs sympathy for her often prickly character. The actress, who actually climbed Mount Suilven when making the film (her Wikipedia entry claims that she became the oldest person to achieve the feat), even manages at times to make you think that the film is deeper than it actually is.
Production company: Cape Wrath Films
Distributor: Music Box Films
Cast: Sheila Hancock, Kevin Guthrie, Amy Manson, Paul Brannigan, Wendy Morgan
Director: Simon Hunter
Screenwriter: Elizabeth O’Halloran
Producers: Mark Stothert
Director of photography: August Jakobsson
Production designer: Chris Richmond
Editor: Olly Stothert
Composer: Debbie Wiseman
Costume designer: Georgina Napier
Casting: Jeremy Zimmerman