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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
How About You
Directed by Anthony Byrne
Strand Home Video 11/08 DVD/VHS Feature Film
Kate (Orla Brady) runs a residential home for elderly people in the Irish countryside. She is a very uptight woman who took on this challenging work after the death of her husband five years ago. When her sister Ellie (Hayley Atwell) arrives looking for work and a place to stay, she takes her under her wing. These two don't get along very well thanks to their different personalities.
Working in the residential home, Ellie befriends Alice (Joan O'Hara) who is dying. She is quite moved when this wheelchair-bound woman shares a wonderful moment from her past when she spent a fabulous vacation in an exotic place with a handsome man. Ellie is dating someone her sister disapproves of. When their mother gets sick, Kate decides to visit her over the Christmas holidays and has no other choice but to leave Ellie in charge of four residents who have no place else to go.
Ellie is unprepared for the challenge of dealing with these selfish, angry, and cantankerous elders. There is Georgia (Vanessa Redgrave), a self-centered retired screen actress, who desperately tries to keep the spotlight on her dramatic actions; two spinster sisters, Hazel (Imelda Staunton) and Heather (Brenda Fricker), who constantly bicker with each other; and Donald (Joss Ackland), a reformed alcoholic judge who desperately misses his wife and laments not being more attentive to her. These four give Ellie a hard time with their temper tantrums, mood swings, and obstinate demands.
How About You is directed by Anthony Byrne based on a short story by bestselling Irish author Maeve Binchy. This unusual drama sheds light on the challenges and paradoxes of aging and the lessons the younger and older generations can learn from interacting with each other.
The spiritual writer Malidoma Some, an initiated elder, says that among his people in Burkina Faso, the old ones are generally angry and ill-tempered, irritated by the banalities of life. That's because part of them is already elsewhere, and they long to leave for the spirit world. This certainly sheds light on the disagreeableness of the four characters in the story. But when Ellie finally speaks out against their irresponsible behavior, they see the light and try to change. What she shows them about a different way of being in the world proves to be transformative. Of course, it helps that the Christmas season envelops them in a warm glow where kindness and group solidarity become more appealing.
Ellie is also impressed with the details she discovers about their hidden talents. Every elder has something special to offer the world. It just takes time and patience to uncover these gifts. This movie suggests it's definitely worth the effort.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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