Edie is the latest in a spate of recent films about old-timers, close to the end of their lives, trying to reconcile themselves with their troubled pasts while also looking for a little adventure before the grim reaper comes calling. (In recent weeks, we’ve had John Hurt as the irascible writer with a terminal illness in That Good Night and Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland as the OAP couple on a raucous American road trip in The Leisure Seeker).
Sheila Hancock plays Edie, a woman in her 80s who has sacrificed much of her life to looking after her ailing, bad-tempered and ungrateful husband. Looking through her possessions, she comes across an old postcard from her father which reminds her of when she was a younger, freer spirit. Years before, they had planned to climb Suilven in Sutherland, a beautiful but daunting mountain, together. Almost on a whim, Edie heads up to the west coast of Scotland to make the climb. She is tricked into hiring a guide and fitness coach, Jonny (Kevin Guthrie), whose motives – at least at first – are purely mercenary. Inevitably, they end up getting on famously. “At first, I thought you were just a cranky old cow,” Jonny admits.
Edie is unashamedly sentimental. An over-emphatic soundtrack doesn’t help. Its plot is as predictable as the bad weather which hits the mountain just as the octogenarian is trying to climb it. Nonetheless, the film has charm and pathos, writer-director Simon Hunter sensibly foregrounds the extraordinarily picturesque Highland settings. He is also helped by a strong-willed and sensitive performance from Hancock as the elderly mountaineer. In the course of her expedition, she rediscovers a part of herself which had almost been snuffed out. “I was a wild child, difficult to believe now,” she reminisces. “I used to have such fun… and then I got married.”
At times, the camera pulls back and we see Edie a very long way below, a tiny dot on the landscape, as she struggles her way in the general direction of the summit. Suilven isn’t exactly Everest. Even if it is rugged and inaccessible, it can be climbed in a day. For Edie, though, this is an epic journey. The filmmakers show us both the cost and the rewards for the venerable mountaineer
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