A heist movie with a difference, Golden Years is less old lags and more old codgers, as a group of retirees find themselves somewhat improbably involved in a scheme to rob banks.
Starring Bernard Hill and Virginia McKenna as married couple Arthur and Martha, the low-budget British comedy focuses on cash strapped senior citizens driven by financial need to start a new career – robbing banks.
Set against a backdrop of financial mismanagement of pension funds, John Miller’s twilight years ensemble caper rounds up a cast of familiar faces from British TV and film, including Una Stubbs, Phil Davis, Sue Johnston and EastEnders’ actress Ellen Thomas, who have literally lost their lust for life thanks to money problems.
Arthur and Martha, are a retired couple living a modest life that’s about to become a little more stressful as the pensioners find out their pension fund has dwindled after his former employer went bust.
In fact their whole circle, who hang out at their local social club which is in danger of being sold off, are awash with money worries and health issues, an issue brought starkly home after Arthur visits an elderly friend in a care home who is suffering from neglect.
Soon after a worried Arthur plots to rob a bank, but coming to his senses decides to call it off. However what happens next, a bizarre slapstick moment that stretches the limits of implausibility to infinity, means he pulls off the robbery, and high on that victory soon plots his next heist in a bid to help his elderly friends.
In a wry nod to cult U.S. TV show Breaking Bad, after the first robbery the elderly couple purchase a motor home – now an auspicious sign that something bad is about to go down – to drive around Britain visiting stately homes, before popping in to rob a few banks.
It’s not long however, before an ageing police detective (Alun Armstrong) and his younger camera-ready rival (Brad Moore) – complete with deep fake tan – are on their tail.
Its warm, middle England feel at times recalls the golden era of Ealing Comedies, and vignettes of the elderly couples enjoying a game of bowls, and touring picturesque country towns do bring on a warm, familiar glow.
Miller and DIY SOS presenter Nick Knowles, who co-wrote the film, have also littered the script with lots of sexual innuendo which, as is often the case, sounds much ruder when delivered by the elderly.
Miller is never less than competent, and the rest of the cast try their best with a soggy script that holds few surprises for the viewer.
While it is refreshing to see a movie that is pitched at the older, movie going demographic, which is criminally under-served, the inexperience of first-time film director Miller and writer Knowles means the film is pretty predictable and not the feel-good classic it would like to be.
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