by Toby Woollaston
Frodo’s jaunt to Mount Doom meets The Leisure Seeker meets Scottish promotional video in this cinematically beautiful crowd-pleaser about an ageing woman’s desire to climb Scotland’s prominent Mount Suilven—she’s woefully prepared but equally determined to knock the bastard off.
Having lived in the clutches of a controlling husband, the recently widowed Edie (Sheila Hancock) now finds herself at one of life’s big crossroads. Does she pursue the adventure she always wanted or resign herself to seeing out her days in a retirement home? It’s no secret what she chooses and her ill-advised decision to climb one of Scotland’s most iconic mountains is met with amusement, surprise, and then concern from the people around her.
Packing her bags with equipment circa 1970, she heads off to Scotland naively in pursuit of fulfilling a lifelong dream. On arrival, she fortuitously strikes up a friendship with a local guide, Jonny (Kevin Guthrie), who lays out some quick-fix guidelines and goals. He offers her a loch-side pebble, a sort of sentimental talisman with which she is to carry up the mountain. Similarities to Frodo’s journey abound as she attempts her ascent (minus the special effects, of course). But rather than casting her pebble it into the fiery furnace of Mount Doom, Edie must set it atop Mount Suilven and bask in her own sense of achievement … that’s if she makes it.
The scenery is jaw dropping, almost to the detriment of the film; the result eliciting a slightly dreamy quality. One does wonder if the Scottish Tourism Board slipped cinematographer August Jakobsson a fiver to show off their beautiful countryside.
Shelia Hancock does a commendable job of playing an ageing woman whose steely resolve shuns the predetermined life laid out before her. However, the chemistry between her and nice-guy-guide Jonny is unconvincingly patchy and their relationship oscillates between feeling authentically believable to cloyingly forced with exaggerated moments of lighthearted whimsy.
But despite its pitfalls, Edie still provides a satisfying sense of catharsis and is at times quite sublime, and although the sweeping landscapes are quite fawning, it still makes you want to sign up for a trip to Scotland.
See my reviews for the NZ Herald and NZME here.