Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Julie Gavras
Stars: William Hurt, Isabella Rossellini, Joanna Lumley, Doreen Mantle, Simon Callow, Aidan McArdle, Kate Ashfield, Luke Treadaway, Leslie Phillips, Hugo Speer, Arta Dobroshi.
This lightweight romantic comedy about a middle-aged couple facing up to the fact that they are aging is aimed at a more mature audience, and consequently has little broad appeal. A French-Belgian co-production shot in England, Late Bloomers is the second feature film from director Julie Gavras (the daughter of famed director Costas-Gavras), but it is something of a disappointment.
Adam (William Hurt) and his wife of over thirty years Mary (Isabella Rossellini) react in different ways to the approach of old age. Adam is an architect who specialises in designing transport hubs all over Europe. But when he receives a gold medal for his life’s work he realises that he is reaching the end of his career. He is asked to design a retirement home, which he feels is beneath him, and has something of a crisis. He spends much of his time designing a new museum in London’s disused Battersea Power Station.
Mary is a retired teacher who suffers a brief episode of memory loss and panics. Although medical tests reveal nothing wrong with her, Mary realises she has hit “the big six-0” and is no longer youthful. She begins to age-proof their apartment, with safety rails all over the place. Mary also takes up volunteer work and an exercise regimen to try and remain active. Adam rebels against this and decides to move out of their apartment until she comes to her senses. He also begins to dress in a more youthful fashion and flirts with Maya (Arta Dobroshi), one of his attractive young assistants.
Fearing that their parents are about to split up, their three children – wealthy but stiff businessman James (Aidan McArdle), sensible nurse Giulia (Kate Ashfield, from Shaun Of The Dead, etc), and avant-garde architect Benjamin (Luke Treadaway) – develop a plan to try and keep them together.
Unfortunately the film is almost devoid of laughs, and Gavras’s direction is flat and uninspired. Late Bloomers deals with universal themes like families, generations and mid-life crises, but there are numerous subplots throughout that sometimes are never developed fully.
Hurt seems to be sleepwalking his way through his role, and he seems disinterested and emotionally disconnected from his character. Rossellini tries hard but also fails to give her character much depth. A telling scene at the start of the film has Rossellini sitting on a red bench, framed against a white tile wall, and as the camera pulls back it leaves her alone and isolated, which seems a visual metaphor for how she feels.
There is a good supporting cast. Joanna Lumley is bold and brassy and wonderfully acerbic as Mary’s vivacious best friend Charlotte; Doreen Mantle brings humour to her role as Mary’s ailing mother Nora; and Simon Callow is Adam’s friend Richard, who offers some sage advice about how to handle the aging process.
Late Bloomers is a film that deals with aging and the way in which different people handle the fact that they are getting old. But it is a stolid and somewhat sluggish film with one-dimensional characters, an uninspired script, and some clunky direction. The jaunty soundtrack from Sodi Marciszewer also seems inappropriate given the rather dour tone of the film. As a film dealing with a couple in their golden years it is disappointing, especially when there have been a number of superior films about elderly folk refusing to go gently into their dotage (Cocoon, Mrs Caldicott’s Cabbage War, etc).