fordCecilia Ford, who has been a psychologist in private practice in New York City since 1987, has addressed emotional issues for Women’s Voices in many articles over the years.


dda510_f275782fa4d048f2a2dd8835ce3d6c48.jpg_srb_p_905_509_75_22_0.50_1.20_0-1I’ll See You in My Dreams (Bleecker Street Films)

Ever since filmmakers have caught on to the idea that they can make money with a certain audience by producing a movie in which Maggie Smith does almost anything short of reading the phone book, a new genre has flourished—let’s call it “older adult light.” (Think The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and others, in which Dame Maggie is sometimes joined by, or replaced by, her formidable colleagues Dames Helen Mirren or Judy Dench.) In these films, the general message is that the obstacles one faces at 70 and beyond can be handily overcome, and the fun is just beginning (if you let it). Who would want to argue with that?

Besides providing roles for many talented actors of a certain age, these films are generally entertaining and a worthy substitute for the endless parade of big-budget offerings from the major Hollywood studios. However, they sometimes shy away from—or, at best, skirt over—the difficult and painful issues that are the daily concerns of older adults. While there is no rule that light entertainment is not appropriate for this cohort, two recent films prove that it is not impossible to tackle painful or difficult topics in a way that is not too ponderous.

Two recent American films, Five Flights Up and I’ll See You in My Dreams, are both comedies, but they also deal with what is the essential topic of aging—loss. In the first, Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman are a couple with a charming old co-op (“five flights up” in a brownstone) in a newly gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood, which they’ve lived in for 40 years. She’s a retired teacher and he’s a painter who loves the great view from his studio in the second bedroom there. Both actors are very well cast in what have come to be their standard roles: Freeman as a balanced, wise, and mature fellow with unimpeachable standards—remember, he played a black president when that was still just a Hollywood fantasy—and Keaton as a lovable eccentric, aging well and cheerfully helped along by good hats and great-looking glasses.

Looking ahead, however, they are talked into putting the apartment on the market by Keaton’s niece, an aggressive real estate agent, expertly played by Cynthia Nixon. They agree that the stairs will become a problem for them, and their dog (in what becomes a significant subplot) is already ailing. The movie follows them through a weekend during which they endure an open house for the apartment, surgery for their beloved pet, and a search for a new place to live.

While there is considerable comedy about the vicissitudes of the New York real estate market, essentially the real action is the couple’s recognition of what they value and realization of what they are prepared to part with. As an interracial couple, they are shown in flashbacks with younger actors (surprisingly believable, for a change) suffering the estrangement of Ms. Keaton’s family, who did not approve of her marriage. Later on, they are shown coping with the disappointment of infertility. Currently, they are struggling with Freeman’s character’s confronting the fact that his work is no longer in style and his gallery is dropping him. Despite their long, loving partnership, they have endured a lot of loss, and their apartment—a metaphor as well as one of the main “products” of their happy life together—is emblematic of their most cherished asset: the marriage.

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  • Virginia Alrikabi June 18, 2015 at 11:30 pm

    At first I thought I wanted to see “I’ll See You In My Dreams”, because it deals with someone my age, but then I realized that Blythe Danner is luminous, and I am not. She looks great in Palazzo pants and scarves, and I do not. I skipped the movie.