Rita revisits seven sensitive films that break the stereotypes of the elderly – grumpy old men or kindly, self-sacrificing grandmothers. Only once in a while does a movie with interesting senior characters comes along and when it does, bravura performances by the elderly cast are an added bonus. Here are the thumbnail reviews, by the columnist, of the films that challenge the archetypes, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Only a handful of films showcase the elderly as main protagonists. And when they do, old people are usually portrayed as stereotypes – grumpy old men or kindly, self-sacrificing grandmothers. Only once in a while does a movie with interesting senior characters comes along and when it does, bravura performances by the elderly cast are an added bonus. Here are a few of my favourite films with scene-stealing performances by senior actors.
Director: Akira Kurosawa, 1952 (Japanese)
Cast: Takashi Shimura, Nobuo Kaneko, Shin’ichi Himori, Haruo Tanaka
Ikiru, which means to live, tells a simple tale of Kanji Watanabe, a middle-aged, disillusioned bureaucrat who learns that he’s suffering from stomach cancer and has less than a year to live. After finally coming to terms with his impending death, he decides to accomplish one single thing that will make a difference to people’s lives–to turn a cesspool into a children’s playground. Visibly brimming with energy, the formerly jaded Kenji runs from pillar to post trying to cut through bureaucratic red tape in order to obtain the necessary permission. Exploring the metamorphoses of an individual when faced with the knowledge that his days are numbered, Ikiru chronicles an individual’s struggle, not for himself, but for his fellow men.
Driving Miss Daisy
Director: Bruce Beresford, 1989 (English)
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy, Dan Aykroyd, Patti LuPone
Telling a story that unfolds over a period of 25 years, Driving Miss Daisy explores the relationship between Miss Daisy Werthan, a proud old Southern Jewish lady and Hoke Colburn, her African American chauffeur. Two proud individuals gradually bond over the years against changing race relations that also change the way they perceive each other. Wonderful performances by Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman make this film a must-watch.
Carl Fredricksen and his beloved wife, Ellie, had planned all their lives to visit Paradise Falls, a mysterious locale in South America filled with cliffs and waterfalls and adventure. But life kept playing spoilsport and when they finally bought their tickets to Paradise, Ellie was too sick to go. She soon dies, leaving Carl a bitter man, bound emotionally to a house full of memories. But, he musters up the courage to chase their dream and, loading his house with helium balloons, rips the house right off its foundation, floating out of the city and into an adventure. A heart warming story about surviving grief and chasing one’s dreams irrespective of age UP is truly an uplifting watch for any age.
Director: Shoojit Sircar, 2015 (Hindi)
Piku is a young woman who tries to balance her career and personal life, while caring for a dominating father, who is obsessed with his health and err…bowel movements. A story most Indians with aging parents can identify with, Piku ends up imparting life lessons on a gentle, humorous note.
Cast: Soumitra Chatterjee, Supriya Devi, Dipankar De, Sabyasachi Chakrabarty, Rituparna Sengupta
Based on a story by Samaresh Majumdar, Atmiyo Swajan focuses on an aged couple who feel let down by their adult children. The old man, unable to come to terms with his dispassionate family, persuades his wife to enter into a suicide pact. She agrees but is taken critically ill and hospitalised. Unable to face the prospect of a life without her, the husband goes ahead with the suicide plan. The elderly lady recovers and returns home, with the realisation that killing oneself is tantamount to escaping from the moral responsibility of living life for the sake of one’s family and friends. Despite an overly melodramatic treatment of some scenes, the film makes a positive commentary about the role of seniors in a progressively consumerist world.
Director: Nandita Roy, Shiboprosad Mukherjee, 2015 (Bengali)
Cast: Soumitra Chatterjee, Swatilekha Sengupta, Rituparna Sengupta, Aparajita Auddy, Shankar Chakraborty, Kharaj Mukherjee
The owner of a publishing house announces his intention to divorce his homemaker wife of 49 years, to pursue his ambition of travelling around the world. He feels that his wife is too attached to her family and children to be able to accompany him on his tours and he wants to be free of his spousal responsibilities so he can finally chase his dream of travelling. Urging viewers to re-evaluate life, relationships, and marriage, this film showcases brilliant performances by Soumitra Chatterjee and Swatilekha Sengupta.
Director: Yasujirō Ozu, 1953 (Japanese)
Cast: Chishū Ryū, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara
A simple story about the disillusionment of old couple coming to the city to visit their busy children and grandchildren, this beautiful film is universal in its appeal. A compassionate chronicle about our search of love and meaning, while neglecting those very people who can offer us what we seek, Tokyo Story is one of those rare celluloid gems that inspires a viewer to become a more caring, less flawed human being.
Photos from the internet.
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