Existential themes tend to graft onto characters of a certain age and gender. They’re usually a man in his uncomfortable forties, still some time away from growing wrinkles and walking on canes. But in 2018, we’ve been granted some cinematic access into the life-crises of women over 40 – the Britcom Finding Your Feet came out earlier this year, as well as the French comedy-drama I Got Life! And now Edie, the third film from British director Simon Hunter, is the latest addition to this emerging archetype – and it’s the best of the lot.
Edith Moore (Sheila Hancock) is a devoted housewife, taking care of her wheelchair-bound husband of 30 years. When he dies, Edie feels finally unshackled from her loveless and often abusive marriage, and sets out on her own adventure. Many years prior, her husband denied Edie permission to climb up Mount Suilven in Scotland with her now-deceased father. Now, she’s going to take the hike herself – despite her elderly struggles.
The film lays out quite the journey, one we’re happy to join despite seeing it all before. Writer Elizabeth O’Halloran (Edie being her debut screenplay) litters many opportunities for Edie to give up on her quest and go live in a dreaded Care Home, but Edie struggles through. She overcomes her doubts and physical ailments, to do what she’s wanted to do for decades, and her determination leaves a strong, life-affirming impression on us.
She’s kept from feeling repetitive by the character of Jonny (Kevin Guthrie), a hardware store-worker, who reluctantly agrees to help her up the mountain. Although it’s very much Edie’s story, the relationship between her and him makes the journey far more funny and heart-warming than the upsetting backstory would suggest. We enjoy watching their relationship grow.
The drama is an emotional climb, particularly when Edie reveals her regrets at a wasted life. Those are years she’d never get back and, now she’s 84, that existential hurt lingers long inside our brains and bloodstreams. And this wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful without Sheila Hancock, who portrays Edie’s strong yet crumbling soul with such vividness and charisma. Her elderly-lady personality is something we all recognise – we all know or knew an Edie, and Hancock makes certain we remember them. She has no trouble lifting, as well as breaking, our hearts.
And very few British films are shot with such beauty: displaying the wide, scenic landscapes of the Scottish Highlands and the sharp, emotional close-ups Hancock provides. Although August Jakobssen’s visuals go a drone-shot too many (you can only get away with two at the most), there’s no denying their power.
Edie is funny, moving, and has lovely spark and style. Despite the story being often told, Hunter gives it a unique dramatic flair uncommon in British cinema. It’s hopeful without being (too) cheesy, joyful without denying the inevitable – showing the importance of living life while acknowledging its eventual demise. Although there are sections of O’Halloran’s script that feel clichéd, with some problems resolved as if by magic, the message (like Edie) is strong enough to scale a mountain.
Edie is released in the UK on 25th May 2018