Ruth & Alex



A well-acted film guaranteed to give pleasure to the right audience.


Ruth & Alex

House rules: Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman as Ruth and Alex Carver


The failure of critics to do justice to this film by Richard Loncraine when it was released in 2015 was saddening because in consequence it made little impact at the box-office. The fact is that films made with older audiences in mind are often dismissed by critics who are usually younger and the excellence of the acting here – Diane Keaton on good form and Morgan Freeman giving one of his best performances – did not save the film from dismissal.
I am not suggesting that Ruth & Alex, a film about a long-married couple living in Manhattan, is an unrecognised masterpiece and at the end of the day one has to acknowledge that it is a feel-good movie (which means that the upbeat ending contains a measure of wish-fulfilment). But for what it is Ruth & Alex, an adaptation of a novel, is remarkably good. The film pivots on the fact that Ruth and Alex decide that they ought to sell the apartment where they have lived happily for years because Alex has reached an age when managing the stairs is becoming something of a problem. At least one critic sneered at this as the crux of the story, but it reflects reality and has built-in appeal for older audiences who can readily empathise.
Ruth & Alex is never heavy-handed but veers more towards drama than comedy while containing something of each. It centres on the couple’s search for a new property of a kind that will be affordable out of the sale proceeds for their present apartment after allowing for the costs of the move. Ruth’s niece (Cynthia Nixon) is a sales agent who acts on their behalf and there is some slightly broader satirical comedy about potential purchasers calling to view, but this is a film that doesn’t turn its back on reality. The cut and thrust inherent in the property market world is exposed while flashbacks cover serious matters (the disapproval heaped on young Ruth for marrying a coloured man and her discovery that she cannot have children). That Claire van der Boom and Korey Jackson are so believable as younger version of Keaton and Freeman is in itself evidence of the care taken by the filmmakers. How sensible too not to inflate the material but to bring in the film at about 92 minutes. Ruth & Alex may be a small film but it is a real pleasure. 

Original title: 5 Flights Up.




Cast: Morgan Freeman, Diane Keaton, Cynthia Nixon, Claire van der Boom, Korey Jackson, Carrie Preston, Josh Pais, Miriam Shor, Sterling Jerins.

Dir Richard Loncraine, Pro Lori McCreary, Curtis Burch, Tracy Mercer and Charlie Peters, Screenplay Charlie Peters, from the novel Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment, Ph Jonathan Freeman, Pro Des Brian Morris, Ed Andrew Marcus, Music David Newman, Costumes Arjun Bhasin.

Myriad Pictures/Manu Propria Entertainment/Revelations Entertainment/Latitude-Signature Entertainment.
92 mins. USA. 2014. Rel: 24 July 2015. Cert. 12A.