Updated: Feb 5, 2019
Directed by: #VanessaPellegrin
Written by: #EleanorMons
What could well have been a sombre, ‘based on a true story’ film about a woman at the end of her life, thankfully, never comes anywhere close to actually being that. Instead―and rather like its titular character herself―it is a delightfully upbeat celebration of life, love and new beginnings.
Sieda (Amanda Reed) is a widow in her late seventies, with a sharp wit and wicked sense of humour; an independent and free spirit who is proud of her Belarusian (Not Russian!) heritage. But after being found collapsed at home and subsequently diagnosed with heart disease, she’s made to move in with her daughter Hannah (Jackie howe) and grandson Benjamin (Christopher Hunter). A fate worse than death for someone as fiercely independent as Sieda and a situation not made better by her daughter’s incessant smothering. Although it’s clear, this overbearing behaviour is born out of the desire to protect her mother. Benjamin doesn’t like it and neither does Sieda; who takes every opportunity to escape her ‘house arrest’ and visit the village cemetery. And it’s on one of these jaunts to the cemetery where she meets fellow widower Patrick (Chris Bearne).
Patrick treats her as an equal and isn’t afraid to throw the odd retort her way: “You know, I think this is the first time I’ve seen you with your mouth shut.”
It’s sharp and incisive lines of dialogue like this which permeate throughout the film and it’s to the actors’ credit they never fall flat or feel forced. With the story being what it is, the chemistry between the cast is the key to the film’s success. And I’m happy to report the small but tight-knit troupe have absolutely nailed it. Individual performances are accomplished in their own right, but seeing the characters interact with one another is pure joy.
There’s a first-rate script here from Eleanor Mons, full of witticisms and low-key British humour (‘bush rummaging’, anyone?) which must have been a delight for the actors to work from. And whilst I wasn’t blown away by the cinematography or soundtrack, there certainly wasn’t anything wrong with either of them. Both were admirably put together and fit well within the essence of the film. It’s just neither one really stands out as anything other than a well-made accompaniment.
It’s nice to see a film―which is essentially about remembrance and death―purvey such an optimistic outlook on the twilight years of one’s life. Sieda’s attitude towards old age is really quite inspirational. No matter how often Hannah insists her mother is no longer able-bodied, she’s proven wrong. I found it particularly interesting just how much more able Sieda was compared to her family: Hannah struggled to cope with her mother being in the house and being ill, and Benjamin was still living at home as he couldn’t find work. In contrast, Sieda had an aura which attested to a well-lived and fulfilled life. Sieda was a rock, and this film is a fitting tribute to her memory.
Watch the official movie trailer below.