Best-known for being Gwyneth Paltrow’s mum, actress Blythe Danner has been a graceful supporting presence in movies for decades. Now she finally gets her own film, starring as Carol, a widow looking ahead to an increasingly empty retirement in a leafy LA suburb. Comfortably off, living on her late husband’s life insurance, Carol seems to have settled in for a daily routine of white wine and TV. But the loss of her beloved labrador and a burgeoning friendship with a younger pool cleaner (Martin Starr) sharpens the ache of a life lacking in companionship. Enter silver-haired, cigar-chomping rogue Sam Elliott, and the movie starts to look predictable.
Yet writer-director Brett Haley largely avoids the obvious, delivering a bittersweet observational drama which pulls the heartstrings without getting too sappy or manipulative. At its heart, is Danner’s lovely performance, vulnerable and smart behind the sarcastic façade, and sealed by a devastating karaoke performance of ‘Cry Me a River’ that hints at the musical talent her character left behind in her youth.