Golden Years (2016) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

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Director: John Miller
Writers: John Miller, Nick Knowles 

Stars: Una Stubbs, Alun Armstrong, Bernard Hill, Phil Davis, Simon Callow, Sue Johnston, Virginia McKenna, Brad Moore 

I’m not familiar with Director John Miller’s work at all but he directs with good pacing in a natural and simple style. Miller also co-wrote the screenplay “Golden Years” with Nick Knowles. (Yes that Nick Knowles who is best known as presenter of BBC television’s DIY SOS’)

Arthur (Hill) and Martha (McKenna) are facing financial ruin after Arthur discovers his former employers have been liquidated and as a result no longer receives his pension.

Enraged by this news Arthur decides to rob a bank. He notices a pattern forming with the security of how the money is delivered to his local bank and realises there is a window of opportunity on how he can get his hands on the deposits to the bank. (It reminded me of how Phil Conners robbed the Punxsutawney Bank in Groundhog Day (1993)

Arthur’s intentions to steal the loot results in a very much Laurel & Hardy slapstick way when he knocks out the security guard by breaking his nose and that’s his opportunity to walk away with £50,000 (although the Bank claims it was £75,000) I’ve been a long admirer of Bernard Hill (Boys from the Blackstuff, Titanic, Lord of the Rings) and his previous work and again he plays his character for real and you can’t help but root for Arthur throughout the movie.

Before long Martha has joined him (even though most of the movie she is struggling with Crohn’s Disease) and there is a funny scene in Arthur’s shed involving exploding blue dye when she discovers what Arthur has been up to.

Virginia McKenna is best known for Born Free (1966) but shows her comedic side in Golden Years and is a great match for Bernard Hill. There are some tender moments between Hill and McKenna when Martha’s ill health is worrying Arthur.

Pursued by Police Detective Alun Armstrong (Sid) who manages to just miss the robbers every time has enough problems with the over ambitious attention seeking DC Stringer (Brad Moore) trying to upstage Sid at every opportunity and breathing down his neck and a fed up wife thrown in called Nancy played by the brilliant Sue Johnson (Who is more Sheila Grant (Brookside) than Barbara Royle (The Royle Family) who I felt was under used for someone with her humour and credentials.

Brad Moore (North vs South & Montana) as DC Stinger has moments of comedy gold, in fact every scene he is in will raise a chuckle or two. I have to admit I don’t know enough about Moore, but he was a stand out in this movie and hope to see much more of him in bigger roles.

Arthur and Martha embark on a spree of bank hold-ups (combining same with a touring holiday of National Trust stately homes in their recently purchased caravan, where they store the dosh also). When their local bowls club is threatened, they realise that it’s going to take more money than just the two of them can steal to save it, this is when it’s good to have friends!!

I haven’t saw Una Stubbs in anything for a long time and my first recollections of her was starring opposite Jon Pertwee in the children’s classic Worzel Gummidge as the “Living Doll” Aunt Sally. In Golden Years she plays Shirley who is married to Royston (Simon Callow) and a good friend to Martha. Similar to her friend in that she cares deeply for the ones closest to her and regards the bowling club (just like Arthur and Martha) more than just a club but a way of life and purpose.

Royston admiring the caravan from a far cannot resist temptation and invites himself into the caravan unknown to Arthur and Martha, much to the shock of the robbing couple they come clean to their friends on their little adventures.

Simon Callow like Bernard Hill invests 100% into his character whether it be in this movie, Amadeus, Four Weddings and a Funeral or Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, he never lets you down.

Phil Davis (Quadrophenia & Alien 3) plays Arthur’s mate Brian and I felt he was a little under used considering his impressive CV. Brian although feels both Arthur and Martha are off their heads with what they’ve been up to, agrees to help them perform the heist and actually is very proud of the couple.

Golden Years is a decent movie that will more than likely strike a chord with the older generation.

It’s certainly not a rib tickling laugh a minute movie, but is written part drama / part fun. Golden Years manages to hold a great cast and credit is due to the writing team for producing something simple, funny and satisfying.

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