While we may spend most of our lives planning for retirement and old age even the best prepared can be faced with unexpected challenges. This is just the situation that Sandra (Imelda Staunton) finds herself in. While her husband of 40 years Mike (John Sessions) celebrates his retirement following a successful law career, she discovers that he has been having an affair.
Seeking refuge she visits her estranged sister Bif (Celia Imrie), who she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Bif is a free spirit and relic of the hippie era whose lifestyle and world view are at odds with Sandra. The longer Sandra stays in Bif’s inner city flat the more she opens up and after a while she reluctantly goes along to her sister’s dance class. There she meets Charlie (Timothy Spall), a kind hearted man whose wife lives in a nursing home and who can barely recognise him. Before long she starts to accept the challenges she faces and is looking at life from a new perspective.
Director Richard Loncraine has experience with these kinds of the stories having previously brought us My House in Umbria and Wimbledon. If you have seen one of his films before you will be familiar with the light tone and gentle humour that has characterised much of his work. Wimbledon may have been unimaginative and inoffensive but it had just enough charm to keep you interested.
Finding Your Feet in contrast is so poorly thought out and conceived that it is hard to have any kind of investment in the story. Are really meant to hope that Sandra and Charlie get together when Charlie has a wife in a nursing home? Are we really meant to believe that Bif is the only person Sandra can turn to when her daughter is supportive? Meanwhile, London landmarks are shoehorned into shots for no particular reason. There is even a point when Sandra crosses Tower Bridge despite taking a taxi from Surrey to South London.
For a film that sets out to be a comedy it is disappointing that there is barely a funny moment to witness. Not even in the hands of Imelda Staunton, Timothy Spall, Joanna Lumley, and John Sessions, who are all capable comic performers, is this poorly written and sickly script amusing. Despite repeatedly claiming to be about people finding a new lease of life the film can’t get away from increasingly wearisome jokes about how old the characters are.
This reaches its peach when Bif brings a boyfriend home only for him to die as she begins to undress. Aside from being a rather humourless and tasteless gag, it undermines the idea that there are still possibilities after you have retired. Perhaps as an attempt to atone for the cheap jokes much of the dialogue is made up of preachy advice that sounds like it has come straight from a self-help book. The acting is so forced that at times it feels like you’re watching an amateur pantomime.
When so many independent British filmmakers struggle to find funding why do films like this get made? It is clearly aimed at the so called ‘grey pound’ market, which came out in force to see films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Victoria & Abdul, but why them make something that insults the physical state and real struggles that the older generation face.
It may only be February but Finding Your Feet must surely be a contender for worst film of the year. It is dull, unfunny, and patronising to both its viewers and characters. I have only ever walked out of the cinema once, but if I hadn’t been reviewing the film this would have been the second.