One of the first things you notice about the latest from director Richard Loncraine (Brimstone & Treacle, The Missionary, 1995’s Richard III, Wimbledon) is that in a film whose entire primary cast consists of actors in the twilight of their lives, the subject of age is not only never mentioned, but it’s also never the butt of any jokes or really discussed at all.
Which is not to say that Finding Your Feet isn’t about life and living at an advanced age. In fact, a key component of many of the characters is that some have lived rich and full lives, while others are just beginning to discover the possibilities that the world around them has to offer. These lessons wouldn’t mean as much being bestowed upon someone in their 20s or 30s, but to someone in their 60s, they prove to be both motivational and affirming.
As the film opens, Lady Sandra Abbott (the flawless Imelda Staunton) has just been alerted to the fact that her husband of 40 years is having an affair with her best friend. For the entirely of her adult life, Sandra has been defined by her limited role in this marriage, so the discovery is especially painful. She runs to the one person she know won’t turn her away, her older sister Bif (Celia Imrie), even though the two have drifted apart in recent years. It’s entirely possible—even likely—that most aren’t going to like Sandra very much, and it’s a credit to Staunton that she doesn’t play the character as loveably cranky, opting instead for abrasive, selfish and entitled. But also without noticing it (and I’m guessing that this will happen at different times for everyone who sees it), I began see the good in her as the bitterness slowly fades and a genuinely kind person emerges.
Bif slowly begins to indoctrinate Sandra into some of the more exciting parts of her life, including dating, late night swimming and dance classes in a troupe that ultimately ends up generating a little viral buzz thanks to a flash mob appearance. At the same time, it becomes clear that Bif’s health is not good, and Sandra rallies to support her in ways she never has in life. The supporting cast includes Joanna Lumley and David Hayman, as well as Timothy Spall as Charlie, a potential love interest for Sandra. And while the beginnings of a new chapter in her love life are quite promising, the real love story in Finding Your Feet is the re-establishing of the bond between the sisters, who desperately need each other for various reasons at this time in their lives.
Although the primary goal in Finding Your Feet is lighthearted fun with a tinge of inspiration, director Loncraine (working from a screenplay by Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft) isn’t afraid to let things get darker and more dramatic. The dancing element is a hoot and reminds us that Staunton’s years of on-stage training in musicals (including recent turns in Gypsy and Follies) have made her a more-than-capable hoofer. For the most part, the movie avoids diving headfirst into sentimentality, but it’s also not afraid to give us no choice but to turn on the waterworks ever so slightly. It’s also a well-intentioned comedy that manages to generate laughs without mocking the age of its cast. It’s a slight effort that still manages to make an impression.
The film opens today at the Landmark Century Centre Cinema.