We are now entering the twilight zone... films that finally acknowledge old age

At last, says Christina Patterson, some new films that actually acknowledge old age

"Who is it," says a character called Cissy in Quartet, "who said 'old age is not for cissies'?" The character, played by Pauline Collins in Dustin Hoffman's first film as a director, can't remember.

But then she can't remember quite a lot of things. In this, she is like many of her fellow residents at the retirement home for musicians where she now lives. Some of them, like Jean, played by Maggie Smith, repeat themselves. Others, like Wilf, played by Billy Connolly, have problems with their prostate, and piles. "Why do we have to get old?" Jean asks her long-estranged ex-husband, who's also at the home. "Because," says the character, played by Tom Courtenay, "that's what people do".

Yes, people do get old, though you wouldn't normally know it from films. But at the moment, if you choose carefully, you might. If, for example, you go to see Trouble with the Curve, you'll see Clint Eastwood struggling to pee, and bashing a car against the walls of the garage, and burning a burger because he can hardly see. If you go to see Hope Springs, you'll see Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as an older couple struggling with a sexless marriage. If you watch The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (which you can now buy on DVD) you'll see men and women struggling with bereavements, weak hearts and wrecked hips.

And if you see Amour, you'll see a man and a woman who have loved each other for more than 50 years quietly falling apart. You'll see the woman, played by Emmanuelle Riva, suddenly go silent over breakfast as she has a stroke. You'll see the man, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, pushing her in a wheelchair, and helping her off the toilet, and pulling up her pants. You'll see a marriage that has been alive with love, and conversation, and shared experiences, change into something that's full of fear, and loneliness, and shame. You'll see, in other words, what happens to the human body, and the human mind, when both begin to decay.

In four of these films, including the one whose title makes it sound as though it ought to, hope springs. In Quartet, it's the hope of a musical reunion – the quartet of the title – in a gala concert, and of a reconciliation after a betrayal. In Trouble with the Curve, it's the hope that an old curmudgeon with old ways can triumph over the fancy ways, and flawed technology, of youth. In The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, it's the hope that good things, including sex, are "never over", and that those good things will happen if, as one character says, "we get up in the morning" and "do our best". I won't give away the endings, but let's just say that "feel-good" films aren't called "feel-good" because they make you feel bad. They are all, in their different ways, enjoyable. They are all, in their different ways, limited. They all edge, at times, towards caricature, and they all give in, at times, to the temptation to patronise the old with sentimentality and easy laughs.

That's OK. Most films patronise most people with sentimentality and easy laughs, and at least these films, unlike television and most of the media, acknowledge that old people exist. But Amour doesn't patronise anyone. Amour shows us what happens when even the greatest love is tested, by the body's frailty, to its limits, and when hope, which has sprung for so long, dies. It shows us, in fact, the difference between a nice story that cheers you up, and a work of art that's sad, but also beautiful, because it's true.

'Quartet' is on nationwide release

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee