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  Never Too Late Older, Not Necessarily Wiser
Year: 2020
Director: Mark Lamprell
Stars: James Cromwell, Dennis Waterman, Roy Billing, Shane Jacobson, Jack Thompson, Jacki Weaver, Zachary Wan, Renee Lim, Wayne Mattei, Marko Lukic, Stephen Tongun, Wendy Ticao, Gina Lamprell, Genevieve Mooy, Max Cullen, Tess O'Flaherty
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jack Bronson (James Cromwell) has a scheme to give his life the happy ending he thinks it deserves, and that involves his former sweetheart Norma McCarthy (Jacki Weaver). They are both getting up in years now, and his body is beginning to fail him just as her mind is starting to fall victim to the early stages of dementia, but Jack would dearly love to get married to Norma at last, while she still has the awareness to know what she is agreeing to. However, while he has tried to trick the staff of the nursing home they stay in to ensure he and Norma can make it out of there and elope, they are not so easily fooled, and give him the bad news that she will be transferred to a different facility for three months...

Will she even remember him after that? There's only one thing left to do, thinks Jack, and that is get his old team back together, the men he fought alongside in the Vietnam War and managed to escape from a Viet Cong prisoner of war camp. Now, when you are aware this is an Australian film, and that the number of Australians held in POW camps during the Vietnam conflict was precisely zero, then you will understand what you are watching is sheer fantasy, and one which presents the bad behaviour of the elderly as something endearing. If, however, you have first-hand experience of the elderly being "incorrigible" or bad tempered or awkward on a grand scale, you may find the shenanigans here a lot less endearing than intended.

But, again, this had only a passing recognition of reality anyway, though its celebration of raging against the dying of the light had to contrive a lot of convenient plot points to facilitate Jack's supposedly roguish plans. For instance, though not every resident in a care home will be having a great time, and not every resident will be compos mentis anyway, they are established to take care of the residents - not inmates - and the idea that they would prevent a pair getting married for no good reason we can see was something of a slur on the industry. Quite apart from the fact most of these residents are not men but women, if false representation of various professions in the movies irked you, you were not going to get along with Never Too Late no matter how much pandering there was to the over sixties that made up the target audience.

One thing the film did get right, however, was the feeling of time running out when there remained things you feel you needed to do before it was too late, in a terminal fashion. Stuff left unsaid that should have been spoken aloud, that psychologists' term "closure" on something you have been considering all your life, we had seen something similar in The Bucket List, one of Jack Nicholson's final films, and this was a less gimmicky variant on that comedy, except Australian. Cromwell obviously owed that nation's film industry a debt as it made him a star in middle age with Babe, and his cohorts here were welcome faces from that cinematic history of Oz, along with British import Dennis Waterman, even more incongruous than Cromwell (how did he end up fighting in Vietnam, then?). If you wanted to spend time with the oldies as they enjoyed a near to last victory lap before retirement, then this was fine, but so intent on coaxing tears from the audience that the opposite effect may well arise (Angela Little's music is particularly egregious there), and the jokes you could write yourself, because you had heard them so often.

[NEVER TOO LATE will be available on EST platforms including Sky and Amazon from 28th March and on TVOD / DVD from 4th April.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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