Growing old on film, dealing with the elderly can be deeply moving when done right, when presented with compassion and honesty. Far too often, films about the aging go radically off track, in the wrong direction, with a barrage of toilet jokes, fart jokes, bowel movement comedy, sex jokes, just terrible bottom of the barrel humour that is more insulting that anything else. Watching Dirty Grandpa (2016) last year was torture as it was the lowest form of comedy imaginable about the elderly. Insulting, abysmal on every level. Why not portray the elderly as they are? Just like us only perhaps a little slower, not as sharp mentally (some not all), they struggle with what they do not understand, they may not hear as well, but they represent our past, and in many ways our future. My God the things they have seen! My parents can tell me what it was like to live through the Second World War, in arrival of television, rock and roll, the Beatles, the assassinations of JFK, King, and Bobby Kennedy. They are a window into the past, and my past, and they are a preview of where I am going. Here’s the list of top movies about old people ever. You can watch some of these best old people movies on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
1. Away from Her (2007)
A Canadian film, directed and written by national treasure Sarah Polley, this superb work was among the very best of its year, a stunning feature debut for Polley, acted with honesty and integrity, and each character is treated with respect. For me this is aiming the greatest love stories put on film, in addition to being a startling study of what it is to grow old with challenges. Fiona (Julie Christie) is forgetting more and more each day as Alzheimer’s take a terrible grip on her mind. Against her husbands protests, played with heartbreaker no brilliance by the great Gordon Pinsent, she admits herself into a long care facility where one of the rules is no contact between spouses for thirty days. When Grant returns, she has no memory of him, and seems to be in love with another.
Stunned, reeling in grief and inner turmoil, Grant accepts the advances of the other man’s wife and gradually withdraws from Fiona, allowing her to have this. Circumstances draw them together again, and the immense love between them builds a bridge to cross in the landscape of her mind. Christie and Pinsent together are utterly breathtaking, each delivering the best work of their long careers. Olympia Dukakis is excellent as the woman with whom Grant finds comfort, a sad, melancholy relationship with each just wanting to connect. Polley directed a film that ever so gently with truth and authenticity strokes our soul. Astonishing.
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2. Amour (2012)