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Film review: Edie

25 May 2018

Stephen Brown has questions about this journey of a soul

courtesy of Arrow Films

Sheila Hancock as Edith Moore in Edie

Sheila Hancock as Edith Moore in Edie

EDIE (Cert. 12A) seems destined for cinemas’ matinee slot, just because it features a woman in her eighties, played by Sheila Hancock. The film, however, isn’t really about old age. Rather, it acknowledges that all of us “have left undone those things which we ought to have done . . . and there is no health in us”.

Edith Moore has, at a cost to her own well-being, dutifully looked after a cantankerous husband till his death. When it seems that she has at last been released to be herself, her daughter, Nancy (Wendy Morgan), bundles her into a care home. This feels like another kind of death, invoking rebellion. When Edie is dragooned into a flower-arranging class, she deliberately cuts the head off a flower.

Reflecting on her life, she realises that serving others led to sins of omission. She failed to obey an inner calling. This is crystallised when she remembers that her father wanted them to climb Mount Suilven in Sutherland County — and the thought is father to the deed; for very soon she is off to the north of Scotland. Not having done much preparation, a local man, Jonny (Kevin Guthrie), comes to her aid, and their (often quarrelsome) journey begins.

Edie is quite a bitter character. Although Hancock’s performance may well show how real-life oppressive experiences can assault and hurt the soul, viewers might prefer a leading character with whom they can empathise more easily.

Grumpiness in old people in films is usually mitigated by some redeeming feature. Because Edie lacks this quality initially, there is a dreary predictability about how things will eventually turn out. I found myself comparing the film adversely with The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry or James Bolam in television’s The Missing Postman, or the film The Straight Story, in which individuals undergo an arduous journey of the soul. They do so with pathos and good humour. Edie hasn’t that depth.

Simon Hunter, its director, obviously hoped that it would have. Where it succeeds is in drawing attention to how we may try to fulfil the hopes and dreams of our parents, achieving ambitions on their behalf. Edie’s father didn’t manage to climb Mount Suilven, but will she? Having unloosed the shackles clamped on her by her abusive husband, is she any freer in her honouring of her deceased father’s wishes? Does her regret have the positive effect of leading to action? Repentance for sins of omission is valid only if there is the intention of amendment.

Edie wouldn’t resort to such religious concepts to explain her quest. The nearest that our heroine gets to this is when, symbolically, she adds a rock to a cairn, reminiscent of the old Scottish Gaelic blessing Cuiridh mi clach air do chàrn, “I’ll put a stone on your stone.” It’s what fellow pilgrims do for one another to mark the way; continually enlarging the cairn makes the route clearer. It also serves as an encouragement, reminding us, like Edie, that we aren’t the first to make the journey from sadness to gladness.

On current release.

A church companion booklet has been published by Damaris Media and the Mothers’ Union at www.mothersunion.org/edie.

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