Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Movies about Children and Older Adults

Photo by Kevin Dooley.
After watching well over 130 films featuring older adults, I noticed that there are many that explore inter-generational relationships. 

[Updated July 18, 2015 to add Mr. Holmes (2015).]

Often the tension and opportunity for growth comes between older adults and their grown children. 

However, a few films focus on the possibility that older adults have something to offer children two generations removed from them--either their grandchildren, a neighbor or a complete stranger. 

The older adult sometimes offers nurturing, acceptance, and guidance that the parent is not providing. 

Sometimes the older adult offers a window into a world the child has never seen--the beauty of nature, a new culture, a future vocation, or a hobby.  The older adult also might help the child see his or her own parent in a new light. 

And the children have something to offer the older adult. 

Frequently, the older adult finds a sense of wonder, new-found energy, hope for the future, the value of affection, and playfulness through his or her relationship with a child. 

Here are a handful of films that depict older adults and young children forging a mutually benefiting connection:

Mr. Holmes (2015).  Ian McKellen stars as Sherlock Holmes, 30 years post-retirement and having difficulty employing his well-known logic to resolve mysteries past and present.  His live-in housekeeper has a son about 10 years old.  The older man and young boy form a friendship that is rocky at times but for the more part mutually beneficial

Magic of Belle Isle (2012). Morgan Freeman plays a novelist who has lost his inspiration when his wife died six years prior. He spends the summer at a lake house and a single mom and her girls befriend him.

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. 

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.

Is Anybody There? (2008). A ten-year-old boy loses his sense of home and family when his parents convert their house into a residence for older adults. The boy discovers a new sense of self with the help of a new resident, a retired magician.

Little Miss Sunshine (2006). This film depicts a dysfunctional family that includes a grandfather who dotes on his grandchild in a charming yet bizarre manner--a very different slant from the traditional grandfather role.

Nanny McPhee (2005). Emma Thompson depicts a crone figure--the fairytale archetype for a mature woman. She helps a family regain equilibrium and transition into a new stage through tough love. Nanny McPhee is a bit like Mary Poppins but of grandmother age and a lot rougher around the edges--physically and emotionally. 

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.

The Butterfly (2002). A mature butterfly collector finds that a neighbor's child has stowed away in his car as he journeys to find a rare butterfly.   

The King of Masks (1999).  A Chinese-language movie about a mature street performer seeking to train a young child to perform his particular brand of street art / magic.  Again and again, things don't go as planned. 

Koyla (1996). A Czech movie about an older musician re-examining his life in part through the influence of a 5-year-old boy.


Films about Aging A-L


  1. Thanks for the tips. We watched "August: Osage County" the other night, about an older couple and their kids, Just for the record: Didn't like it at all. It was boring; seemed stilted and undeveloped. We like "Parenthood" on TV.

    1. From the previews, Osage looks pretty depressing. Thanks for your perspective. I will probably choose to watch some other films featuring older adults before I get to that one. For example, I am eager to see Still Mine (2013). It seems to depict tough realities that correlate with age without leaving the viewers without hope.

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  3. I would would suggest the movie "Butterfly" or more accurate "the tongue of the butterfly." A movie about a boy and a teacher from different ends of the political spectrum in the Spain immediately before Franco.

  4. Thanks, Francisco. I just put it in my Netflix queue. Looks good.

  5. On some of this movies I have laugh more then my kids. anyway there are few movies on the list i still haven't watch, I hope will be fun.