Comfort is a word that keeps coming to mind while watching Richard Loncraine’s lovely comedy. Comfort in watching a story holds almost no surprises, but goes everywhere you want it to. Comfort in watching actors with decades of experience playing comedy and tragedy without a hint of strain. Comfort in constant optimism in the face of divorce, sickness, financial hardship and death. It is a simple, touching story that is sweetly, undemandingly entertaining. It would be very easy to pick holes in it but it doesn’t give you much reason to want to.Imelda Staunton, an actress who wears her brilliance very lightly, plays Sandra. Sandra’s husband, Mike (John Sessions), has just been made a Lord and is about to retire. Finally, he and Lady Sandra can have the retirement she’s always planned, swanning around the world. Catching Mike in the arms of his mistress/her best friend (Josie Lawrence) throws that plan out the window, so Sandra packs her bags and storms off to live with her estranged sister, Biff (Celie Imrie). Biff lives for the day; Sandra’s been living for a day that will never come. They reconnect, Sandra loosens up and life begins again at dance classes with lively locals (including Joanna Lumley and Timothy Spall). You can see where it’s going.For all its obvious jokes (Viagra: check; sagging boobs: check) and broad character sketches (bohemian Biff is bisexual and doesn’t understand technology), it’s so well played that all its characters fill out and all its emotional b
What was the first film you saw in London?
‘It was “Mary Poppins” at the Granada in Clapham Junction. I remember bawling with tears watching “Feed the Birds”. I used to go there Saturday mornings. They showed “Flash Gordon” but something was wrong with it and everyone was squashed. Flash looked like a Michelin man.’
What’s your favourite London cinema?
‘I like the little ones. I love the cinema in the Barbican; all those Picturehouses. Cinemas have gone back to being palaces of entertainment.’
What was your most memorable West End premiere?
‘It was for Ken Branagh’s “Hamlet”, around the time I was diagnosed with leukemia, as I descended into the hell of getting better. One of the first things I did after I got out [of hospital] was go to that premiere. I’d bought an electric-blue Rolls-Royce, which is what you do when you have a close shave. I went with my wife and our friend Alan. I pulled up, hopped out and forgot I left the car in gear. It went rolling off, Alan had to jump out of the back to stop it.’
What’s the first location you remember filming in?
‘It was in an advertising agency somewhere in Paddington. I was doing my one scene in “Quadrophenia”. I distinctly remember being a bit miffed because there were so many people about and some of the crew were sitting around watching “Deep Throat”. That was distracting.’
What was your most memorable place to shoot?
‘I remember filming in this tiny little church, near the Pillars of Hercules [pub on Greek Street] and the old Foyles. Access to places like that is great.’
Which films would you say sum up London?
‘Central London’s used as a heritage place – red buses and all that. To see what people who live in London are like, I’d say put on Mike Leigh’s “Secrets and Lies”.’
‘Finding Your Feet’ is out now.
Picture credit: Dave J Hogan, Getty Images