Finding Your Feet
Imelda Staunton, Timothy Spall, Joanna Lumley
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…a heart-warming examination of a fate we all face, designed to strike a chord for its intended senior audience.
Loss is a terrifying inevitable of old age. How we cope with devastating loss as elders is a startling challenge of its own. In Richard Loncraine’s latest romantic comedy-drama, Finding Your Feet, this challenge is tenderly confronted by an accomplished cast of Britain’s finest senior actors, which includes Imelda Staunton and Timothy Spall. Despite the odd misstep, Finding Your Feet is ultimately a heart-warming examination of a fate we all face, designed to strike a chord for its intended senior audience.
When ‘Lady’ Sandra Abbott (Imelda Staunton) discovers her recently knighted husband of forty years has been cheating on her, she leaves her Surrey manor and moves into a London council flat with her bohemian sister, Bif (Celia Imrie). Unable to cope with leaving her lavish life behind, Bif suggests Lady reignite her love of dancing and encourages her to join the local seniors dance group. She apprehensively joins, meeting Charlie (Timothy Spall), a furniture restorer grieving over the loss of his wife to dementia, Jackie (Joanna Lumley), who has been divorced five times, and Ted (David Hayman), Charlie’s shy and supportive friend who has recently lost his wife.
This stellar cast makes it difficult for Finding Your Feet to disappoint within the acting department. Staunton is impeccable, playing a rarely seen role of an older woman in an overwhelming emotional state, having to essentially start life from scratch. Sandra is to be despised at first; a stubborn, snobby and completely out of touch woman who has no regard for Bif’s carefree and downwardly mobile lifestyle. But hate turns to compassion, and Staunton masterfully has the audience grieving with her by the end. Imrie is also a joy to watch. Bif is a ray of sunshine who lights up every scene with her inspiring patience and enthusiasm for the small moments in life. Timothy Spall breaks hearts with his endearing performance as the quiet-souled Charlie, expertly jumping between the light hearted, free-spirited Charlie, and a man broken by the emotional agony one faces when watching a loved one suffer from dementia.
Heavy themes are beautifully lightened by the quaint London backdrop, spectacularly captured with shots of Hampstead Ladies’ Pond, surrounded by fog on early winter mornings, as well as Piccadilly Circus dressed in its Christmas lights.
However, above the charming setting and cast, the real beauty of the film is its message. At face value, one might assume what links the group of dancers together is simply their retirement status. But age aside, what is ultimately shared is their experience of recent, intense loss. They are mostly alone, with the dance troupe central to their social lives. Whether in death, dementia or divorce, audiences view each of their grieving processes, which all eventually evolve into a process of renewal for the characters, who find solace and support within each other. Life does not end with heartbreaking loss and old age for these characters, it simply rambles on. They eventually cope, and reinvent themselves. There are even tear-jerking twists for the audience, where we too, must farewell a certain character and absorb a sense of the grieving process.
Yes, audiences will have to sit through intentionally cringe inducing montages of the cast tripping over their feet in rehearsals. Rehashed jokes about the perils of old age are cracked. But these cliches do not negate what screenwriters Nick Leonard and Nick Moorcroft have so lovingly written; a story which aims to ease the terrifying inevitability of loss and old age, gently reminding us that life does not cease until we do.