Saturday, July 27, 2019

Coming of Age in Films: Book Review

Published April 1, 2019.
I love a book that gazes at objects from popular culture through the viewpoint of higher education. 

Garrett delivers a powerful mix of "high" and "low" culture. 

He not only gathers an impressive array of films about aging; he discusses with insight these films--individually and in various groups. 

(See the TOC below.) 

If you watch films and if you are aging (hint: we are all aging), this book will give you a broader perspective and a deeper understanding on how narratives and images on film create scripts that people often follow without question. 

Garrett convinced me to overtly ask this question about my film viewing: 

Are the depictions of aging in the film I'm watching helpful or harmful? 

Dr. Marrio Garrett is a Professor of Gerontology at San Diego State University. As a scholar in an interdisciplinary field, he moves comfortably among fields such as sociology, communication theory, psychology, film theory, disability studies and health care to deliver an academic argument that is accessible to the well-read lay reader.

His introduction creates a strong framework for the body chapters. 
"Seemingly disparate theories, such as feminism and disability [studies], have contributed to our understanding of how stereotypes influence our aging process" (p. 19). 
Here is a list of just 8 films that Garrett discusses in his book--just so that you can get a preview of how he includes blockbusters and indies, US and foreign, recently released in the 2010s and classics from the mid 20th century and a breadth of genres:

On Golden Pond (1981), Poetry (2011 Korean language film), Umberto D (1952 Italian language film), Coco (2017), Nosferatu (1929 silent film), The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons (2008), Bridges of Madison County (1995) and Finding Your Feet (2018). 

The conclusion invites readers to be more mindful of what films they watch and how they watch them.
"Embracing aging while associating with film characters who inspire us will allow us, as individuals, to convert the prescriptive nature of film into a positive experience--one that affirms aging" (p. 246). 
Table of Contents (TOC): 
  • Foreword
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: Narrative Arc
  • Chapter 3: Later Life Romance
  • Chapter 4: Intergenerational Conflict
  • Chapter 5: Aging Horrors: Dementia in Film
  • Chapter 6: Aging in Animation
  • Chapter 7: Art and Creativity
  • Chapter 8: The Final Act
  • Chapter 9: Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index 

All of these chapters piqued my interest. I have been striving since 2010 to watch films that depict aging from midlife forward. 

My post that lists films about dementia receives a lot of views, so I was particularly interested in his chapter on that topic and his list of films there. Garrett made observations I haven't thought of before and listed films that I haven't viewed yet. 

I will be referring to this book again and again.  He's done a lot of work--both in the quantity of films and the quality of his research and analysis. 

*Note: I have received a copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review. 


Vander Bosch & Scheidt Review Films for The Gerontologist

Finding Your Feet: Review
Films about Alz and other Neurocognitive Disorders

Films about Aging
Levy's Research on Positive Stereotypes


  1. I want to read this book, I will see if the library has it. I am always on the lookout for films and TV about senior citizens and recently discovered the wonderful TV series As Time Goes By.

    1. Terra: If the library doesn't have it, you can ask the librarian to consider it as one of their acquisitions. I have not seen as episode of _As Time Goes By_. Thanks for the recommendation!