When several Brits in their advancing years find they need serious change in their lives, they each find their way to the same retirement hotel in Jaipur, India. There, surrounded by a culture so far from their own, Douglas (Bill Nighy, Love Actually) and Jean (Penelope Wilton, Downton Abbey) are forced to deal with their marital problems, Graham (Tom Wilkinson, The Debt) searches for the love of his youth, Evelyn (Judi Dench, Jane Eyre) learns to live her own life after losing her husband, Muriel (Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey) has to overcome her incapacitating racism in order to have a timely surgery, and Madge (Celia Imrie, Calendar Girls) and Norman (Ronald Pickup, Prince of Persia) search the singles scene for new partners to ease their loneliness. The hotel they travel to is being barely kept together by Sonny (Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionare) the over eager manager, who simultaneously has to deal with his mother trying to drive away the girl he loves for a more beneficial arranged marriage.
The writing is solid, the acting is wonderful, and all of this is brought to us from the director of Shakespeare in Love. Sounds to me like the perfect pitch for a pond-jumping sleeper hit, and it’s not far at all off the mark. Though the funny highs and the emotional lows aren’t quite as impactful as some of its predecessors, like Calendar Girls, there’s still plenty to like about this flick. It really has a little bit of everything, romance, laughter, regret, connections, loyalty, and courage, all pulled together with a lot of characters, so maybe they just cast the net a little too widely for everything to feel tidy. The first time they line all of these wonderful actors up in the same shot though, it really feels like something to behold.
The locations in India are absolutely stunning. They don’t sugarcoat it by any means and along with the stunning colors and culture on display they also highlight how overwhelming the poverty and overcrowding can feel. None the less, no film has ever succeeded as well at making me want to experience it myself.
My personal opinion: Renaissance Place was more packed for this movie than I’ve seen it in a long time. It’s like a trip to India with a little extra emotional baggage for your carryon and a really nice time at the movies.