Movies about elderly people—especially women—deciding to fulfill their youthful dreams at long last are becoming a fairly regular occurrence. The latest is “Edie,” in which an octogenarian is determined to climb a mountain in the Scottish Highlands. It’s better than “Poms,” in which Diane Keaton played a woman who’d been forced to abandon her hope of becoming a cheerleader as a teen and started a squad in her seventies, but that’s not saying much. On its own, it never reaches the heights the lead character is aiming for.
What distinction the film has comes from the presence of Sheila Hancock in the title role. As presented in Elizabeth O’Halloran screenplay—based on a story idea by Edward Lyden-Bell—Edie has just been widowed after caring for her husband, incapacitated by a stroke, for three long decades. Her businesslike daughter (Wendy Morgan intends to move her into a retirement home without delay, but is taken aback when, snooping in her mother’s diary, she finds that Edie has harbored resentment against her husband for years. She leaves in a huff.
Edie, meanwhile, has come upon an old postcard of Mount Suilven that she once received from her father, and it recalls her hope once to climb the peak with him—a plan her husband had summarily forbidden. Though her dad is long gone, she determines to try to scale the peak now, finally achieving something she had longed to do many decades before.
So off she goes, only to literally bump into a young couple—Jonny (Kevin Guthrie), who is seeing off his fiancée Fiona (Amy Manson)—on the platform of the train station at the village where she arrives to prepare for the climb. Jonny’s concerned that the elderly woman might be hurt in the fall, and so drives her into town. Naturally she’s shown up a day early, so the hotel can’t accommodate her, and the genial Jonny offers her a bed in his ill-kept apartment for the night. Coincidentally he also runs a sporting-goods store and supplies her with the gear she’ll need, though his loquacious pal McLaughlin (Paul Brannigan) is more willing to take advantage of her lack of expertise.
What follows is pretty predictable. Edie and Jonny develop a bond as he takes her out for some training in preparation for her hike—nothing romantic, of course, but rather a mother-and-son (or perhaps more accurately grandmother-and-grandson) sort of thing. Back in town Edie goes to a bar with Jonny and McLaughlin, experiments with drinking from a can and actually enjoys it (though the brew makes her fall down again).
But when it comes time for the actual climb, Edie insists on going it alone, leaving Jonny to celebrate with the returned Fiona and their friends. Naturally a storm comes in, and Edie’s being out in it all alone gnaws at her new friend. Perhaps he also recalls Edie’s remarks about how she regrets having allowed her late husband to control her life, especially when Fiona’s irritation over his desire to go to the mountain and make sure Edie is okay takes on a fairly domineering tone.
Jonny’s decision is foreordained, and it’s not long before he finds Edie and persuades her not to give up the attempt to reach the summit—and to accept help to do so. The final shot by cinematographer August Jakobsson is a summation of the fine work he’s done capturing the stunning Scottish locations throughout, though the accompanying score by Debbie Wiseman can assume documentary-style heavy-handedness in accompanying the visuals.
What keeps “Edie” from descending into pure schmaltz is Hancock, who conveys her character’s flintily strong will as well as her physical frailty, and who can elicit a smile of recognition with the slightest of gestures or changes of expression. Guthrie makes a likable companion fort her, and though Brannigan, Manson and Morgan come on rather strong, they are only doing what director Simon Hunter, whose work is frankly little more than adequate, asks of them.
“Edie” treads familiar ground, but Hancock almost makes it worth taking the trip.