Stories about women taking enormous life-and-limb risks are not ones we tell often. Instead we tell stories about women fulfilling their responsibilities: to children and to husbands, mostly. Well, “I did my duty,” growls 85-year-old Londoner Edie (Sheila Hancock), who spent years caring for her difficult disabled husband, who was an asshole even before his stroke. But after he dies, she’s nowhere near ready for the depressing care home her daughter (Wendy Morgan) wants to put her in. So she takes on an adventure, something for herself and no one else, something she’d meant to do decades ago and was never able to: she will climb Mount Suilven in the Scottish Highlands. It’s not huge, as mountains go — 2,400 feet — but it’s considered challenging. And, you know, she’s 85, in good shape for her age but hardly an experienced climber.
“I wasted so much time doing nothing,” Edie practically howls…
British director Simon Hunter takes a sharp turn from his last movie, 2008’s sci-fi action flick Mutant Chronicles, with Edie. Working from a script by Elizabeth O’Halloran and Edward Lynden-Bell, Hunter busts expectations that this will settle into a twee dramedy of the sort we’ve seen plenty often before. This is most emphatically not The Best Exotic Extreme Adventure, mostly thanks to the magnificent Hancock. Her Edie is much more bitter and much more profoundly full of regret than pop culture is typically comfortable with: “I wasted so much time doing nothing,” she practically howls... and by “nothing,” she is referring to marriage and motherhood. That’s as extreme as her plan to climb that mountain, her acknowledgement of how freeing it is for her to finally be free of the social traps women are presumed to be fulfilled by, which were even tighter for her generation.
Oh, there’s plenty of gentle comedy, too, especially in Edie’s relationship with the much-younger Jonny (Kevin Guthrie), the owner of an outdoor-gear shop near the mountain who becomes her guide and eventual friend, to the bemusement of his friends. But the film is as ultimately no-nonsense as the striking and rugged Highland landscape they’re navigating. And Edie is endlessly satisfying in its determined protagonist, with her tangy triumph of risk-taking over regret, resolution over resignation.
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