Review: Eddie (2017)

Eddie (2017)

Directed by: Simon Hunter | 102 minutes | drama | Actors: Sheila Hancock, Kevin Guthrie, Paul Brannigan, Amy Manson, Wendy Morgan, Rachael Keiller, Donald Pelmear, Daniela Bräuer, Christopher Dunne, Tori Butler-Hart, Calum Macrae, Tanya Winsor, Sallyann Fellowes

Not everything you see in movies today is real. No wonder British acting legend Sheila Hancock initially thought she would have to act for blue screens for the film ‘Edie’ (2017), in which an 80-year-old braves a tricky mountain peak in the Scottish Highlands. “When I said that, there was a long silence,” the 85-year-old actress told The Guardian. She was really supposed to go up the mountain herself. “Suddenly I understood why she wanted me. I am still quite fit for my age.” Thanks to a lot of training and a good dose of endurance, Hancock conquered her fear of heights. “I don’t know how, but I did it. I was terrified. I fell over, fell through a big hole, everything jumped to my legs… And that was before we even reached the mountain itself!”

There is little of that fear in ‘Edie’, by director Simon Hunter (who has a modest resume with the horror film ‘Lighthouse’ (1999) as the most famous title). Hancocks Edie is a woman whose life is largely behind her. For years she cared for her ailing husband George (Donald Pelmear) and was trapped in a loveless marriage filled with frustration. Now that he has passed away, she bears the burden of so many ‘lost’ years. Her daughter Nancy (Wendy Morgan) wants to move her to a retirement home as soon as possible, but Edie doesn’t want to hear about that. While searching the attic, she comes across her old backpack, which reminds her of the deal she used to make with her father. Together they would climb Mount Suilven in the Scottish Highlands. But they were never able to make that trip. With renewed inspiration, Edie decides that if she still wants to make the trip, it’s now or never. Undaunted and determined, she boards the train heading far north.

Edie isn’t necessarily a woman you immediately fall in love with. She is full of frustrations about the way her life has turned out. Out of a sense of duty, she stayed with her husband, who did not treat her well but became dependent on her because of his illness. His death feels like a kind of liberation to her. The relationship with her daughter also does not go smoothly, especially when she finds an old diary of her mother in which she has described her disappointment with her life in scents and colors. It is thanks to the convincing performance of Hancock, a veteran of the British stage who has also starred on both the big and the small screen for some six decades, that we keep hoping that she will find her zest for life again. An important role in this plays the young Jonny (Kevin Guthrie), whom she already bumps into at Inverness station and takes her under his wing as best he can. It also turns out that Jonny works in an outdoor sports shop and also does odd jobs as a guide. Does that look good!

As much as Edie resists and claims she doesn’t need anyone, her contact with Jonny proves crucial. He prepares her for the climb, makes sure she has the right materials and even makes her smile and enjoy life again. For a moment you even get the idea that we are heading for a potential ‘forbidden love’ à la ‘Harold and Maude’ (1972), but ‘Edie’ takes a more conventional turn. A bolder choice by screenwriter Elizabeth O’Halloran would have made the film slightly more exciting and tantalizing; now we must do it must be the tried and true concept of someone working ‘against all odds’ towards an extraordinary performance.

Guthrie stands his ground next to Hancock. The Scottish actor is charming and has a fine chemistry with his 55-year-older co-star. A subplot around his girlfriend cq. employer Fiona (Amy Manson), who has big plans for the outdoor sports store, barely shows up and could have been left out. Paul Brannigan provides the comic relief as Jonny’s mate McLaughlin.

But let’s not forget the scenery: the breathtaking Scottish Highlands certainly have room to shine here, although director of cinematography August Jakobsson could have gotten even more out of it. Failing to fully exploit the power of its strong lead actress Hancock and her undeniable chemistry with Guthrie, ‘Edie’ gets stuck in an entertaining yet safe and conventional drama about an elderly lady trying to make up for lost time. Moreover, the film does not show what a victory it was for Hancock to actually climb the Suilven. There were also more residents.

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