Finding Your Feet

 

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Old pros struggle to inject a note of credbility and freshness into familiar sitcom material.

 

Finding Your Feet  

Celia Imrie and Imelda Staunton

   

Sandra Abbott (Imelda Staunton) would seem to have the world at her feet. With money no problem and her husband (John Sessions) just knighted, Sandra can count herself a lady of the smart set. Then she catches Sir Michael cheating on her with her best friend. After he weakly explains that, “one thing led to another,” she storms out on him, leaving thirty-five years of a happy marriage in tatters. Without so much as an invitation, she pitches up on the doorstep of her sister, ‘Bif’ (Celia Imrie), not having set eyes on her for ten years. And she’s in for a nasty shock: Bif has no time for her sister’s airs and graces and is perfectly content in her cramped, cluttered London quarters. She certainly isn’t interested in the stifling constraints of dignity or decorum…

 

To say that Finding Your Feet is formulaic is to understate the matter. It mines the contrivances of the middle-class sitcom with the nonchalant air of a jaded copywriter. In order to keep as many narrative balls in the air as possible, the film packs in all the available pitfalls of growing old (dementia, cancer, erectile dysfunction) as if it were collecting for an Age UK brainstorm. Here are all the tried-and-tested standbys of the form, from the weekly dance class to the pre-coital heart attack.

 

Even so, the usually reliable director Richard Loncraine (now a septuagenarian himself) has surrounded himself with old pros and caricature is kept at a reasonable remove. With its mash-up of quaint London locations and unlikely paramour on a boat, it recalls the recent Hampstead (2017), but it is better than that. The film is rife with peachy observations (Facebook is dismissed as “virtual curtain-twitching”) and Imelda Staunton and Celia Imrie keep things relatively real. As Bif’s best friend, Timothy Spall is surprisingly sweet and touching, but he’s hardly the romantic foil that the narrative demands.

 

And one can almost smell the allure of the silver pound. With films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Philomena and The Lady in the Van teasing out a hungry new demographic, producers seem willing to invest in stories about the older generation. But with its congestion of familiar narrative tropes, the film fails to secure an original foothold, while losing its dramatic momentum at the final hurdle, ending on a note that is as disappointing as it is contrived.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Imelda Staunton, Timothy Spall, Celia Imrie, David Hayman, John Sessions, Joanna Lumley, Josie Lawrence, Indra Ové, Marianne Oldham, Sian Thomas, Richard Hope.

 

Dir Richard Loncraine, Pro Nick Moorcroft, Meg Leonard, John Sachs, Andrew Berg, James Spring and Charlotte Walls, Screenplay Nick Moorcroft and Meg Leonard, Ph John Pardue, Pro Des Jon Bunker, Ed Johnny Daukes, Music Michael J. McEvoy, Costumes Jill Taylor.

 

Powder Keg Pictures/Eclipse Films/Catalyst Global Media-Entertainment One.

111 mins. UK. 2017. Rel: 23 February 2017. Cert. 12A.