Good-hearted, this British comedy-drama marries evergreen talent with some broad comedy beats.
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 beats land. Even if the end is visible from miles away, you’ll almost certainly still weep buckets and feel a warm glow when it comes.
Cast and crew