Film Review: How About You

The latest in a long line of films featuring elderly folk as amusingly dotty old broads and bastards.

Amiable enough, but so cliché-filled it should be the subject of a “How to Make a Completely Unoriginal Film” thesis, How About You comes from the “wacky old broad” school of English comedy. Of course, when the old broads are Vanessa Redgrave, Imelda Staunton and Brenda Fricker, the film is at least watchable. But top-tier talent doesn’t mean How About You is any less obvious, in a been-there, seen-that sort of way.

The story is simple enough. Ellie (Hayley Atwell) is working at her sister’s rest home when their mum gets sick. Big sis (Orla Brady) decides to go visit mum, leaving Ellie in charge of the four residents still around over Christmas holiday.

They are nothing if not a mismatched quartet. Georgia (Redgrave) is a former film siren, now flouncing around like Isadora Duncan and living on martinis. Donald (Joss Ackland) is a retired judge and former alcoholic who has descended into severe misanthropy. And there are two spinster sisters, Heather (Fricker), a feisty pool shark, and Hazel (Staunton), who seems afraid of her own shadow.

Naturally, these four give poor Ellie one hell of a bad time until she flips out and tells them how nasty, evil and selfish they are, after which—Oh, frabjous day! Calloo! Callay!—they bond like siblings, learn to appreciate life again, and have one hell of a holiday.

If you’re experiencing déjà vu all over again, it’s because this old-geezers-learn-to-love-life-again plot has been done about eight-gajillion times. In fact, about the only thing original here is that not one of the four dies. That’s usually the case in films of this sort, the rejuvenated oldster passing on after getting that final shot at happiness. The bittersweet, teary ending.

No such weepy time here, but at least How About You is short and inoffensive. As to its creative chops…let’s not go there.