Elderly Edie (Hancock) has spent most of her life catering for her husband despite not loving him. After he suffered a stroke she stayed with him out of duty. When he dies Edie’s daughter (Morgan) makes shapes to usher her into an old folk’s home but Edie isn’t done yet. Not by a long shot. She hops on a train to Scotland with hopes of scaling Mount Suilven, employing the reluctant Jonny (Guthrie) as a guide…
The fighting spirit of the elderly is a recurring theme of late with sombre dramas Amour, 45 Years and Song For Marian, and likeable romps like Quartet, Finding Your Feet, The Lady In The Van, and the Marigold Hotel movies enjoying success. But it’s the latter that Edie leans on with Sheila Hancock’s Edie doing her best acerbic Maggie Smith. But while the sharp-tongued Edie is just as pushy and determined as Smith in Van and the Marigold outings she isn’t given the same quality lines as Smith enjoyed.
That’s because her character isn’t as well drawn/given enough depth. There’s little to know about her before she embarks on this perilous mission other than she didn’t love her husband and her father always wished he could scale the mountain with her. Because we don’t get her background or where she’s coming from the tension between her and Guthrie doesn’t work and so they suffer through scenarios of artificial drama. For example, Guthrie puts her up in his house when she can’t get a room the first night in town, him sleeping on the couch, but somehow the story wrangles itself around to have Edie pissed at him. Later Guthrie tosses her out of his jeep to force her onto the bike… after she has an accident. Scenarios like this stretch credibility. He suffers the same underwritten fate as her: he’s bossed around by his girlfriend (Amy Manson) who owns the camping shop he works in.
The film is a quiet affair, which is fine, but there’s a difference between low-key and underpowered. The writing makes a grave mistake of not isolating Edie and Jonny, instead preferring to push them up the mountain on practice runs before retreating back to the town for a pint and a rest; it’s only much later when Edie treks off alone. Where director Simon Hunter shines is showing the Scottish Highlands in all its stark glory: it might be grey and empty but it’s beautiful.
Checking off its clichés as it goes (the soundtrack is at pains to underline the emotion one is supposed to feel) it’s really only Hunter’s Scotland and Hancock’s performance to keep one entertained.