Ever since the blue-rinse brigade got their kits off for the W.I. in Calendar Girls, there’s been a surfeit of screen projects featuring misbehaving pensioners, from ITV’s Off Their Rockers to the new Ab Fab movie; Pens Behaving Badly, let’s call them. Here it’s a bowling green and its associated clubhouse that need saving, and the old folk who want to keep it hit upon the idea of robbing banks to raise the funds they need.
Golden Years is the screenwriting debut (albeit alongside two other writers, including director John Miller) of TV’s Nick Knowles, he of the plaster of Paris hair and the over-rehearsed presenting style. Sadly this is more DIY SOS than it is Perfection.
Bernard Hill and Virginia McKenna are Arthur and Martha (a level of humour that is present throughout), whose friend is being badly treated in a retirement home and whose pension fund suddenly runs out when its primary contributor goes belly-up. Arthur’s plan to rob a bank in order to buy the land upon which the bowling club resides founders on his indecision, until a golden goose lays its egg in his shopping trolley – and after an incident in the garden shed (bar for some saucy stories, about as blue as the film gets) Martha decides she’s up for some “Thelma and Lacey” too. A tour of National Trust properties in the Bristol area in the ‘Alf-a’s new caravan eventually involves our protagonists’ circle of friends, including demure Brian (Davis) and camp Royston (Callow, having shameless fun with the part). But the inexplicable original robbery brings a perplexed Sid (Armstrong; wife: Nancy) into Arthur’s orbit, and from there on in it’s a question of whether the bowling club will be sold on or saved at the eleventh hour. You can probably guess which.
This is pretty gentle stuff, the 15 certificate belying a complete lack of violence or cuss words, and while the pace itself is similarly moderate, the film’s attractively ambulatory nature comes at the expense of much in the way of character development or ambiguity. Arthur begins the film quiet and proud, and ends it the same way – and between times we don’t really get to learn anything else about him. The same is true for the rest of the cast, Knowles and Miller preferring to throw in a handful of “funny” where growth and depth should be. It’s a formula that has proven successful in the past often enough, and an undemanding afternoon audience will no doubt lap this up once it becomes a television fixture, but next to ostensibly similar films like, say The Parole Officer, Golden Years has very little in the way of personality. The odd emotionally engaging moment aside, there’s just about enough going on to hold your attention but nothing to really pique it.
Special Features: About the Film, Audience, The Cast, The Director
GOLDEN YEARS (GRAND THEFT OAP) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JOHN MILLER / SCREENPLAY: JOHN MILLER, NICK KNOWLES, JEREMY SHELDON / STARRING: BERNARD HILL, VIRGINIA McKENNA, SUE JOHNSTON, PHIL DAVIS, BRAD MOORE, MARK WILLIAMS, UNA STUBBS, SIMON CALLOW, ALUN ARMSTRONG / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW