Sunday, March 16, 2014

Films about Aging O-Z

Jessica Tandy & Hume Cronyn
Photo by Alan Light.
This is Part III of a three-part list.

The first half lists A-F. The second half lists G-N.

[Last updated 11/30/16 to add Queen Mimi (2015)]

(#135) O'Horten (2007). A 67-year-old railway engineer in Norway is retiring after 40 years. Odd Horten is a man of strict routine and very little words. But on his first day of retirement, his life falls off the rails.  How will he structure his life once work doesn't structure it for him?  Full Review

Old Goats (2010). Three older men offer each other support as they seek to hit their stride during retirement. They are looking for ways to have adventures, romance the ladies, leave a legacy and preserve their strength.

Old Partner (2009). This award-winning, high grossing documentary from Korea shows the year in the life of an octogenarian farmer and his 40-year-old ox.  The man's wife provides running commentary as she works, but the man and the ox mainly are silent as they perform very hard physical labor all day even with age-related challenges.

On a Clear Day (2005). An older man is forced into early retirement and must forge a new sense of purpose while trying to overcome this loss that reverberates through many areas of his life: family, friends, body image, etc.

On Golden Pond (1981). Henry Fonda plays a retired professor Norman Thayer, Jr. who must manage conflict with his health, his adult daughter, with his teenage step-son, and with his role in the world as he celebrates is 80th birthday at his vacation home. His wife, Ethel, played by Katherine Hepburn, does much to explain a deeply buried golden heart to other members of the family. The film uses the images of mating loons to reinforce some of the themes.

(#140) On My Way (2014) Catherine Deneuve stars as a woman in her early 60s who comes to the stark realization that--yet again--her life isn't turning out as she once hoped.  She walks out of her restaurant in search of a cigarette and ends up taking a road trip as a way to reflect on her life choices.

Out Late (2008). A documentary about five older adults who came out late as gay, lesbian or transgender in their 50s, 60s, or 70s. 

Parental Guidance (2012). Billy Crystal and Bette Midler star as grandparents trying to connect with their grandchildren and trying to compromise with their daughter (Marisa Tomei) over parenting styles. 

Pelle the Conquerer (1987). an aging Swedish laborer and his young son immigrate to Denmark in search of work. The movie depicts the harsh realities of rural life in the 18th Century.

Philomena (2013). Judi Dench stars as Philomena, an Irish woman who has been trying to find her son Anthony, given up for adoption decades earlier. 

(#145) Play the Game (2008). An older adult and his grandson face parallel challenges with romancing women, but each with their own generation's twist.

Poetry (2010). This South Korean film describes the plight of an older woman. While constrained by very limited resources, she's raising her grandson who has gotten into some serious trouble. In the midst of these overwhelming problems, she gets a diagnosis of Alzheimer's.  Nevertheless, she signs up for a poetry class, which helps her find a way to express the heavy burdens that she bears. 

Proof (2005).  This play-turned-film focuses on the relationships among an aging math professor (Anthony Hopkins), his two daughters and one of his graduate students.  As the professor struggles to hold onto his genius, the three younger people make decisions about how to respond.

Quartet (2012). Many mature opera singers and orchestra musicians are cast in this film set in a retirement home for musicians.  One opera soloist (played by Maggie Smith) resists performing in the annual fund raiser. The other members of her quartet must help work through conflicts--both newly formed and long-standing.

Queen Mimi (2015). This documentary introduces the viewer to an octogenarian woman living in a Santa Monica laundromat.  Over the course of 75 minutes, you learn how this against-all-odds cheerful woman survives and how she lived before she became homeless.  Review

(#150)  
Ran (1985). Kurasawa adapts Shakespeare's King Lear within a feudal Japanese setting. Another lens from which to look at the world through the eyes of a late life man, questioning his role in the world and watching his legacy unravel. 

Reach for Me (2008). Seymour Cassel stars as Alvin, a mature gentlemen residing in a hospice because he's battling cancer.  His approach to dying is to lash out at those around him and to struggle with regrets and bad memories.  His new roommate Kevin (Johnny Witworth) provides an alternate view of the dying process, giving Alvin food for thought. Adrienne Barbeau, Alfre Woodard, Lacey Chabert, and director LeVar Burton provide supporting roles.

The Reading Room (2005). James Earl Jones stars as a widower working to build a legacy to his wife in the form of a reading room located in a tough neighborhood.   

R.E.D. (2010). An action-comedy movie about retired spies coming back to work and bringing their wit and wisdom with them. Star-studded cast, snappy dialogue, and lots of good 'blow things up/car-chasing" fun.

The Rewrite (2015). Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei star in a rom-com about two midlife adults looking for second chances in their careers and their relationships.

(#155)  Ricki and the Flash (2015).  Meryl Streep stars as an aging rocker who must face the now-young-adult children she abandoned in order to pursue a musical career that never got off the ground. 

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (2005). An older Japanese fisherman tries to connect with his estranged son who is dying of cancer. 

Robot & Frank (2012). Retired jewel thief Frank (played by Frank Langella) lives by himself and is having a few memory issues. His son brings him an electronic personal assistant--a robot.  Soon Frank figures out a way to have the robot help him return to his old ways, but not without complications. 

Roommates (1995). Peter Falk stars as Rocky Holeczek, a European immigrant who raises his grandson Michael. They must works to redefine their relationship once  Michael becomes an adult. At times they live together as roommates, at other times they live apart.  They have to constantly renegotiate boundary issues and redefine what it means to be family. 

Saraband (2003) This is a Swedish film by famous director Ingmar Bergman.  Critics loved it, but I was disturbed by the dysfunctional relationships. It depicts a man in his 80s and his ex-wife reconnecting after three decades. He is selfish and cruel as is his middle aged son.

(#160)
 The Savages (2007). Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman star as siblings who are disconnected from their father but are thrown into a crisis when their father's girlfriend can no longer care for him just when he's getting a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.  The film focuses primarily on the adult children in crisis. 

Secondhand Lions (2003). Michael Caine and Robert Duvall portray eccentric uncles from rural Texas who host their urban nephew for a summer. The nephew tries to figure out if local rumors of his uncles' illegal activity and globe-trotting adventures are true.

A Separation (2011). An Iranian film about the complexities that arise in a network of relationships involving a couple, their child, the man's father (who has Alzheimer's), and a woman who cares for the older man with dementia. The film shows what a delicate balance exists among people. 

Shadowlands (1993) starring Anthony Hopkins as C.S. Lewis and Debra Winger as Joy Gresham. She's a widow who marries Lewis, a middle-aged bachelor.  Their marriage is cut short when she gets cancer. Her son is affected by her dying, but the film actually focuses more on the marriage. 

A Short History of Decay (2014) a man in his mid-30s fails to establish a career or a relationship. On top of that, his dad has a stroke and his mother has dementia.  

(#165) Signs of Life (1989) Arthur Kennedy stars as a 66 year old Maine shipbuilder who is losing the business his grandfather established to new-fangled fiberglass boat builders. The day he delivers his last order, he and three younger male employees struggle to make their next move.  A good film about the competing pressures of masculinity in several life stages. 

Since Otar Left (2003) This French-and-Russian film focuses on a midlife woman and her daughter trying to protect their mother/grandmother from bad news about the oldest woman's son (the midlife woman's brother) who left Georgia (former USSR) for France.  Full Review

The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn (1999). Sidney Portier portrays a carpenter in his 90s who must defend his property from real estate developers.

Skyfall (2012). James Bond and M make a statement in the long-standing debate between the advantages of youth and the advantages of experience.  But this is no fireside chat but an action-packed exploration of the question: Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Or can the old dog beat the eager puppy with hard-won wisdom?

Something's Gotta Give (2003). Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson star in this rom-com for the 50 plus crowd.

(#170) A Song for Martin (2001).  A Swedish film with subtitles about a composer and violinist who marry later in life.  A few years into their marriage, he is diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The film shows his progression from early stage through mid-stage to late stage dementia and the wive's struggle to keep her marriage vows as he moves further and further away from her. 

The Song of Lunch (2010). Alan Rickman plays a book editor in midlife who meets a former lover (played by Emma Thomas) for lunch after a 15 year separation--caused when she left him to marry someone else. The film is based on a play and has very little spoken dialogue. Instead, the editor narrates the even with heavy poetic language. Full Review

Space Cowboys (2000). Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland star as members of an Air Force team from 1958 who reunite in the 1990s. Their mission is to launch into space to repair a faltering Russian satellite. However, they must overcome ageism, their own in-fighting and technical snags along the way. 

St. Vincent (2014). Bill Murray stars as a cranky, unscrupulous war vet who befriends a 12-year-old neighbor boy.  At times, the influence isn't always positive--but then it's not always negative either.

Starting Out in the Evening (2007).  Frank Langella stars as a mature novelist who hasn't produced a book in years.  His life is stirred up a bit when a young graduate student makes him the focus of her master's thesis.  

(#175) Strangers in Good Company (2000). This unscripted film depicts a group of older women, stranded at a lake cabin and taking a trip down memory lane while they wait to be rescued.

Steel Magnolias
 
(1989). An ensemble cast from several generations shows women coping with life's challenges, some of them age based.

Still Alice (2014). This film, based on the novel of the same name, shows a university professor and her family adjusting to her diagnosis and clinical symptoms of early onset Alzheimer's Disease.  The theme of identity through work vs identity through loving relationships is salient. 

Still Mine (2013).  James Cromwell stars as a man building a new home for his wife (Genevieve Bujold) of 63 years. The catalyst is the onset of her memory problems. But he must fight building inspectors along the way. 

The Straight Story (1999). This film is based on a real-life story of Alvin Straight, a 73 year old man from Iowa who drove his tractor 240 miles to Wisconsin to visit his 80 year old brother. At top speed of only 5 mph, it took Alvin six weeks to complete the journey. The movie demonstrates the tenacity and resilience of older adults who can use their wisdom and maturity to marshal their existing resources to overcome age-related obstacles.

(#180) Summer Hours (2008). A French film that starts with a 75 year old woman expressing her wishes for how here estate should be managed after her death. The majority of the film shows three adult children dealing with the practical and emotional work of managing their mother's house, furniture, artwork and other possessions. 

 
Sunset Boulevard (1950). Even though Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) largely functions as a symbol of old Hollywood, she still serves as an icon of an aging woman. For good or for ill, she's a popular example of how aging women deal with their changing status in society.

Sunset Story (2003). This documentary introduces viewers to friends octogenarian Isja and nonagenarian Lucille who live in Sunset Hall, a retirement community for free-thinking older adults. These two friends are sharp, socially engaged and interested in current events.  Nevertheless, they must manage age-related challenges. They do so with energy and positive thinking. 

That Evening Sun (2009).  Hal Holbrook stars as Abner Meecham, an 80 year old man who discovers that his farm and home have been rented to another family from his town while he (Abner) was recuperating from a fractured hip.  Abner and Lonzo, the head of household of those renting, lock horns for the bulk of the film, excepting the scenes when Abner lock horns with his son, who has power of attorney over Abner's affairs. But the real foe is entropy--whom people of all age must combat but that older adults have to face as their arch nemesis   

The Thing About My Folks (2005).  Peter Falk and Paul Reiser star as father and son taking a road trip and discussing the quality of the older man's marriage.  As with many fathers and sons, this is not an easy relationship, but they somehow muddle through. 

(#185) 
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (2007).  A divorced woman from China has lived in the US for 12 years and is quickly coming to the end of her fertility when her widowed father visits from Beijing.  He's trying to connect with her but he faces several barriers--including her unwillingness to relate to him beyond the most brief and superficial level. 


Tortilla Soup (2001). A widower and his adult daughters face growing pains as they all try to take steps forward into their next life stages.

The Trip to Bountiful (1985). An older woman slips away from her son and his wife to return her to her childhood home, only to find that "you can't go home again."  Nevertheless, she recaptures some vitality and reconnects with her core identity by reminiscing during her trip and touring the grounds of her childhood home.

Tokyo Story (1953). An art house film on a lot of list of film classics that is very slow paced and set in post-war Tokyo. The film shows adult children very busy establishing themselves in the new economy. The aging parents from the country are treated a bit like relics.  I had to watch the film in three 45 minute segments to stay focused on the poignancy of the film delivered through understatement

Trouble with the Curve (2012). Clint Eastwood plays a baseball scout who is accruing a number of challenges to his career.  While he's trying to defeat foes at work and in his aging body, his 33 year old single daughter (played by Amy Adams) takes her first vacation from her law firm in an effort to support him, but they have a very uneasy relationship.

(#190) Tuesdays with Morrie (1999). Jack Lemmon stars as sociology professor Morrie Schwarts, whose health is failing because of the degenerative disease ALS. But Morrie still has purpose as a teacher to Mitch Albom (played by Hank Azaria). Every Tuesday Morrie shares his wisdom and joie de vivre with Mitch--and with the viewers. 

 Two Weeks (2006). Anita Bergman (played by Sally Fields) is dying of cancer, and her four adult children gather for the last two weeks of her life.  This film doesn't gloss over the particulars of death. It shows the day-to-day chores necessary to care for the dying and the untidy emotions experienced by each of these kids and their step-dad.  

Umberto D (1952). This B&W film from Italy shows a pensioner trying to scrounge up the money to pay his back rent so that he and his little dog won't be evicted.   

Unfinished Song (2012) also titled Song for Marion. A mature man watches his wife enjoy life through singing even while she battles cancer. His approach is more grumpy, but eventually he makes small forays into a more positive approach to life. 

Up (2009). Widower Carl Frederickson tries to "get by" following the death of his wife. His world turns upside down when a wilderness scout Russell enters his life. They have an uneasy time working out a relationship while trying to solve a set of outlandish problems, starting with how to get home from an accidental journey by hot air balloon.

(#195) The Visitor (2007). A widower discovers an illegal immigrant couple living in his Manhatten apartment, which pushed him out of a rut and into a world of both pain and joy.

The Way We Get By (2009)Three older adults volunteer to meet troops at the airport in Bangor, Maine in this documentary while working hard to keep their own issues--health, finances, loneliness--at bay. 

Win Win (2011).  A lawyer in midlife has difficulty making ends meet, so he becomes the guardian of an older adult with memory problems.  A troubled grandson shows up and then an estranged daughter.  The movie focuses more on the midlife man forging a relationship with the teen than the grandpa. 

Wit (2000). Based on the 1998 Pulitzer-prize winning play of the same name, this film stars Emma Thompson as Vivian Bearing, a woman fighting an advanced case of ovarian cancer.  As a professor of literature, Bearing is used to being in control, but she finds herself a minor player in the world of medicine and science. 

When Did You Last See Your Father? (2007). Blake (played by Colin Firth) goes to his parents' house to hold a vigil over his dying father.  During his stay, he experiences a set of flashbacks where he tried to come to terms with his father's flaws. 

(#200) Wild Strawberries (1957). Ingmar Bergman's film shows a 78 year old doctor taking a full-day's journey by car with his daughter-in-law in order to receive an honorary degree.  En route, he visits places from his past and takes stock of his life. 

The World's Fastest Indian (2005). Anthony Hopkins plays Burt Munro, a motorcycle racer from New Zealand who competes at the Bonneville Salt Flats and sets record speeds when he is in his late 60s and his customized motorcycle is almost 50 years old. 

Wrestling Earnest Hemingway (1993). Robert Duvall and Richard Harris depict two older gentlemen who have failed to stay engaged in life in a meaningful way. They form a rocky friendship.

Wrinkles (2012). Martin Sheen voices the animated character Emilio who is trying to manage dementia while adjusting to life in a multi-level care center. His roommate Miguel (voiced by George Coe) is both a help and a hindrance.  Full Review 

Young @ Heart (2005). A documentary about a singing group comprised of older adults and their dedication to stay vibrant and active in their later years.

Other stereotyping terms or too technical terms for these films are these: senior citizen films, films featuring retired people, movies with old men, movies with old ladies, geriatric films, movies for gerontology students, movies for aging studies classes, movies about people over 65 years old, movies with grandpas and grandmas.   I put these here only in case people are using those terms in search engines. 


Related:
Aging Films to Watch Next

2 comments:

  1. I think both of these lists are fabulous. What a tremendous amount of work this must have been for you. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. I used to teach literature, which employs some of the same skills as interpreting films: plot, character, symbols, themes, etc. And then I can recommend films to people who are wrestling with aging issues (either theirs or their parents'). Many of these films are really good! Have a great week.

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