08 February 2017

How About You? (starring Hayley Attwell)

This is one of the DVDs that Amazon recommended to me some months ago, based on what I liked already. The blurb suggested a feel-good film with some humour as well as some more serious parts; the front cover suggested a light Christmassy story. I put it on my wishlist, and was given it for Christmas.

We were tired last night and wanted to watch something short and fairly light, and at just under 90 minutes, ‘How about you?’ looked as if it would be ideal. I was particularly interested to note that it’s based on a story by Maeve Binchy; I couldn’t recall it, but, later, found it in her short story collection ‘This Year it will be Different’.

The film is almost all set in a care home for the elderly, run - and owned - by a young woman called Kate (Orla Brady). She’s constantly stressed, because four of her long-term residents are rude and unhelpful. This means that potential newcomers are put off, some current residents are so upset that they leave, and even staff don’t stick around. Finances are tight and there’s a constant threat of being closed down by the overzealous health and safety officer.

It’s nicely produced with a good pace, but the first half hour is quite depressing rather than humorous. It doesn’t help when Kate’s younger and somewhat irresponsible sister Ellie (Hayley Attwell) asks for a job; she persuades Kate to take her on despite a tense relationship, and Ellie comes up against the unpleasant quartet more than once.

As Christmas approaches, most of the residents leave to stay with family and friends, and staff are given a break. Kate expects to stay with the four difficult folk, then an emergency crops up and Ellie, to her horror, is left in charge.

Two of the people who remain are the spinster sisters, Heather (Brenda Fricker) and Hazel (Imelda Staunton) who spend their time bickering and being rude in a loud way. Then Georgia (Vanessa Redgrave) makes constant demands for cocktails, and plays the diva whenever she can. The fourth of the difficult quartet is Donald (Joss Ackland), who expects a cooked breakfast at 6.00 every morning...

Naturally enough, as it’s supposed to be a feel-good film, Ellie’s outspokenness breaks down some barriers, although she also creates more tensions in other ways. The second half of the film is somewhat lighter than the first part, and there are moments that made us smile, although it certainly isn’t ‘hilarious’ as the blurb suggests.

The film is darker and, in places, sadder than the original story and while the ending was positive and quite encouraging, we wished we had been aware that it was a serious film with one or two lighter moments rather than being a light-hearted one overall.

The acting is great, the pace just right, the music works well, even if the repetition of the title song becomes a trifle old. I liked the mild Irish accents too. There were several instances of ‘strong’ language, which, along with some recreational drug usage, gives this film a 15 rating in the UK; neither feature in Binchy’s original story.

On the whole we enjoyed it, and will no doubt see it again some time.

Review by copyright 2017 Sue's DVD Reviews

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