Three years after the death of her husband, Edie (Sheila Hancock) has had enough of doing nothing, and plans to achieve her lifelong dream of reaching the top of Scotland’s Mount Suilven. She had planned to climb it with her father before a stifling marriage held her back for all her life. Now free, Edie leaves a voicemail for her daughter, packs up, and heads out alone.
At 83, it’s undoubtedly a challenge; a three-day hike, two nights sleep in the great outdoors, and you’re carrying everything on your back. Edie accepts the help of Jonny (Kevin Guthrie), a young local who’s desperate to leave the small town of Inverness, almost as much as she is desperate to leave people’s expectations of her at the bottom of the mountain. The two form the ever-expected quaint odd couple who help each other achieve their goals. Edie reminds Jonny to never wait for the right moment and always seize the day, and he prepares her for the trip and encourages her first taste of Strongbow. As predictable as it might be, their relationship is made utterly believable by the touching chemistry the two actors share; Hancock and Guthrie both managed to squeeze out tears from me and my dad.
However, the waterworks may have been down to the beautiful yet manipulatively overpowering score from Debbie Wiseman, which soars in the film’s final moments and reminds us that it’s a film designed to make us cry.
The film reflects on a generational gap that is touched on often, but not from this perspective – one that concerns quality of life. As Edie is about to change her mind and go home, she notices a man about her age sat with his family. He looks tired and unwell, attached to a breathing machine, whilst his daughter and grandchildren laugh and talk beside him. Spurred on by what she sees, she goes ahead with their trip.
It’s a question of how do we want to end up: do we want to live as we do now and end up not being able to enjoy life in our last years, or do we do the things we want to do and push ourselves? Edie answers that question for you. She reminds herself every moment that however far you’ve come is an achievement, but you can always keep going. My dad turned to me after and said: “This is why me and your mum work out, take walks, and travel so much; we don’t want the day to come when we’re not able to anymore and we regret waiting.”
The stand-out beauty of the film is Scotland itself. As the camera pulls back to reveal the journey ahead, Edie is almost a tiny dot on screen. Suilven most certainly isn’t Everest, but for Edie this climb has been nearly an 80 year wait and the achievement of reaching the top is the fulfilment she seeks. As such a beautiful location film, it almost feels like an advertisement for the Highlands themselves. Scotland’s vast hills are something to behold; a fitting backdrop to a film that constantly reminds you how inspirational it is.
This insistence in the script, and placement of the score, begin to make you feel a little forced to feel with Edie, Jonny constantly tells us how it’s so amazing that she’s 83 and attempting this trip; Edie looks up at another peak with a worried face as the music soars into “she can do this!” mode. So many films use these devices, but for some reason, in Edie, they feel more obvious to the audience. Underneath this typical emotive feat, is a stirring character study of a woman who has found her freedom at an old age. It’s as though the script keeps an intelligent idea at arm’s length, in favour of generational-gap jokes and not-so-subtle Fjallraven sponsorship. Edie has heart and pathos, but had the potential to be something much more, as it ticks all the boxes but never breaks out of them.
by Millicent Thomas
Millicent Thomas is a proud Mancunian who will be studying film at Bath School of Art & Design from September 2018. Hobbies include theatre, museums and waiting for Charles Xavier to show up and tell her she’s the world’s most powerful mutant. Her favourite films include Whiplash, Her, Logan and Short Term 12. You can follow her on Instagram at @millicentathomas and twitter at @millicentonfilm