This film starts off with a quite sexy cast of seniors. I have a ’70s Giallo poster with Stephanie Beacham on it, and yet she still manages to turn up here as the sexy best friend. And she kills it. It’s a pretty good-looking cast for a bunch of seniors. Then it gets peculiar, becoming Benjamin Button, trading in its mature actors for younger models, with all the weirdness that entails.
It kicks off with Robyn Smith (Diana Quick), married to dependable Oscar (Bernard Hill). Robyn and Oscar live in a palatial boomer mansion surrounded by lush grounds that Oscar is too lazy to mow in one go. Robyn is a writer with not much of an audience and an impish best friend, Jane (Stephanie Beacham), who is preparing for a vacation overseas. “I’m going to get a facelift with Phylis in Thailand.”
Their lives are comfortable and well-worn. They could all be slung in life’s skip at this point without a murmur of complaint, it would seem. They have settled into the groove of age, calmly approaching life’s exit lane after doing well.
Then all hell breaks loose. Jim (Mark Jackson), an old flame of Robyn’s, turns up at her door in a trilby and the body of his twenty-year-old self. In his job at a shady pharmaceutical company, he seems to have invented a solution that de-ages people back to their peak, forever, with as little trouble as taking an aspirin. The plot then follows the triangle of him, Robyn, and Oscar as the ramifications of his discovery play out among them.
“Jim, an old flame of Robyn’s, turns up at her door in a trilby and the body of his twenty-year-old self.”
The tone of this film is kind of all over the place, but it’s so stacked with good actors you tend not to mind. Director Henk Pretorius has done well to assemble such a good cast. The older members are TV royalty and are all eminently entertaining, while their younger counterparts are talented and graceful. The dialog is certainly on point. If I hear a more British line in my life than Bernard Hill’s “Right, that’s it. I’m not making anyone tea!” I’ll be shocked.
Things get a bit more difficult around the story. It is adept, taking a potentially ugly or exploitative theme and giving it enough daft action and humanity to play out with dignity and a pretty gripping plot, up to a point. The eternal youth plot snares Jim’s junkie daughter. When we meet her, she is in a single pop-up tent alongside a tidy embankment. Leaning out, bare arm riddled with track marks, she resembles a kind of bad taste, bourgeois nativity scene for ‘Issues, yeah?’ If you live in a big city, where this hellscape of the mentally tortured young on the streets is beginning to accrete, then it’s hard to get on board with the presentation of this character. It isn’t helped either by the showy weirdness of having her rejuvenate into a street musician. Amy Wolf, who plays her, is grungy and good, but the character is pat.
Before long, they are all taking the miracle drug and have moved in together as a kind of satanic extended family, looking marvelous and playing cheesy chamber music together. All signs of age and disease are struck from the picture, and what is left is a kind of interior design magazine with people in it, and not much thrilling or fun. These scenes place the film within striking distance of some interesting ideas. And, while it seems comfortable with the deathly orgy of good-taste soft porn that the cast inhabits, there is a distinct waver in its voice, which is nice.
Ultimately, though, this is a strange mix of philosophy and drama. The direction can feel a little unsure here and there, but that’s about the worst thing I can think to say about this film. It feels like Pretorius took a few lumps as director, throwing this whole mad mess together. It is a bit rough and ready, but it makes good use of a really excellent cast.
"…it makes good use of it's really excellent cast"