Sheila Hancock is an 83-year-old woman who tries to climb Scotland’s majestic and challenging Mount Suilven in earnest drama Edie, writes Natalie Stendall.
From writer-director Simon Hunter, Edie smashes the condescending silver-haired screen genre, avoiding the mawkish sentimentality of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to address the very personal impacts of ageism.
Even Edie’s daughter is guilty of writing her off, overreacting to the diaries Edie kept as a young mother in a difficult marriage. That she refuses to accept her mother’s squandered hopes and dreams, including Edie’s yearning for her own long-deceased father, says much about society’s willingness to pigeonhole the elderly.
Underlined by a clever ending that refuses to tie up loose threads, this is very much Edie’s story and Hancock is superb in the role. Sharp and warm, determined and exhausted, Edie opens up gradually and in private.
Looking through old photographs and organising her new hiking gear, Hancock’s Edie softens, coming alive with the prospect of adventure. A burgeoning friendship with mountain guide Jonny (Kevin Guthrie) further opens up the story to themes of freedom and possibility.
Going against the genre’s grain, Hunter’s rural community is not quaint or twee but claustrophobic and judgemental. Edie and Jonny are scrutinised by prying eyes. Laughter erupts in corners. A standout scene sees the uncomfortable Edie chastise herself in a pub bathroom, frenziedly wiping red lipstick from her face.
A relatively small film by multiplex standards, Edie, deserves to be seen on the big screen. The scenery is spectacular and the cinematography, reminiscent of Jean-Marc Vallée’s Wild, captures Edie’s struggle through the landscape with natural light and handheld cameras.
The sound work is impressive too. Seagulls and fishing boats interrupt the quiet as Edie loses herself in old family photos and, when we reach the great outdoors, the visceral sounds of wind, rain and squelching mud vividly call forth Edie’s sense of discovery and life.
A handful of early, comedic missteps and a few patches of thin storytelling are soon forgotten in the path of Edie’s reawakening. Sincere and often emotionally complex, Edie embodies the delicate, nuanced roles that our older actors deserve and cinema urgently needs.