Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Film: 'Together'

I'll give this film points on two aspects, but thereafter I search in vain for anything commendable.
It's not often, very rarely actually, that we see an entire story devoted exclusively to an aged couple - Sylvia Syms and Peter Bowles playing their real-life early-eighties ages, here in a marriage that's lasted over six decades.   
I knew that the story had the potential to suffocate and drown in a pungent slurry of sentiment - but (though some may disagree) I thought that despite the basic proposition of their being separated with the threat of being put in different residential care homes, it somehow did manage to not go quite under.  

Why did I even go? Well, I had to make a quick decision, not being in the mood to follow my diary and attend a screening of Ian McKellan spouting forth on his career yet again (I'd had my fill of his talks, I think, even before the millenium!) I checked on what alternatives there were - and this jumped out because (twice bitten I!) it showed an astonishing average rating of 9.8/10 on IMDb. If only I'd delved deeper. I was already aware that reviews has been indifferent at best, but returning home afterwards I found that someone has spiked the ratings - just as had happened on my last cinema visit. As at today (with an average rating now down to 9.0, which takes into account my own 'helpfully' low one) it seems that of the 23 individuals who have offered a rating, 16 of them have given this film a perfect 10. Plainly absurd! Someone's larking around with submitted scores without having been spotted - and it surely must be the same person. Needless to say I will not be fooled again.

Back to the film, or at least the stars for starters:-
Sylvia Syms has been a feature of British films and TV since the 1950s. In her time she was considered something of a beauty, and so she was (Is one permitted to use such vocabulary these days?) In those early years she featured in at least two 'classic' b/w British films - 'Ice Cold in Alex' (1958) and the historically significant, 'Victim' with Dirk Bogarde in 1961. Her more recent appearances include her playing the Queen Mother in 'The Queen' in 2005 with Helen Mirren. I saw her once on stage, back in 1970, when she still had those famous looks, as Beatrice in that curious play of two halves, light-dark, 'Much Ado About Nothing' - with location shifted to Mexico!
Peter Bowles has done much less film work but he too has been a stalwart of British TV since about the same time. (I've also seen him live on stage in a couple of Alan Ayckbourns.)

Two such aged characters, if they appeared in a film at all, would almost always have been peripherals to the main storyline to give it 'variety', not the central focus as they are here, and with little deviation.
The couple are living contentedly together in their own house when she has an accident and is taken to hospital where it's recommended she remains for a few days. Meanwhile, official procedures take over when he's found to be living alone at his advanced age, although he's displaying no signs of incapacity, and it's suggested that he goes into a residential home just for the period his wife his away, something he's most reluctant to do. He eventually agrees to go when assured that it's only for the short term when he would otherwise be living alone. Meanwhile it's discovered that on the police files there's a 50-year old case of his having assaulted his wife and given her a black eye. In fact, she had drunk too much on just one occasion and had fallen over, giving her the injury, but in order to avoid her being given embarrassment he had taken the rap for it. Nothing had been heard of it until now with the police involved, and because of his 'record' they are now resisting letting them move back to living together. Behind a veneer of "we're only doing what's best for the two of you" the local council is playing strictly by the book. The tug-of-war between officialese and this elderly couple not wanting to be separated is the raison d'etre of this story.

If I say the film was not as dire as it could have been, it achieved that by only a small margin. The script, I thought, was as flat as can be - every word predictable with not a sparkle of wit anywhere. Early on I was thinking to myself "This just isn't good enough. Anyone could have written this!" The dialogue added nothing at all. It could almost have been a silent film and what we lost in information wouldn't have added up to much. I was wondering how the two stars could have signed up to play in this. I can only surmise that they'd have been flattered to have the chance of playing main characters at their ages, opportunities like this being rare indeed.
If it's possible to find an even worse ingredient than a poor script, it was the incessant, maddening background music - mainly clarinet and strings giving a mood of "playful and reassuringly not too serious'. (Old folks, you know!) It was quickly driving me round the bend. It just would not stop - well hardly, anyway.

Directing as well as being responsible for the dull script was 52 year-old, one Paul Duddridge, whose only other feature film as director was the indifferently rated 'Mothers and Daughters' (2016) - not seen by me. If the general opinion of that one is true, this 'Together' does not constitute an advance.

It's now getting on for 24 hours since I returned from having seen this and am only now submitting this post. I have to say that, despite negative feelings, I now don't feel quite as unfavourably disposed as this time yesterday. Thus my rating is correspondingly higher...............3.5.



  1. Sylvia Sims as I recall also played in the tv version of The Poseidon Adventure
    She played the Shelley Winters Belle Rosen role , a thankless act given ms winters' camp performance loved by gay men all around the world.

    I digress
    Thanks for the review Raymondo

    1. Yes, I noticed that JayGee - and her TV work back-catalogue is truly formidable, as is that of Peter Bowles. I didn't know she'd done so much.

  2. Sylvia Sims was a household name on tv once upon a time and loved by us all, in my family at least. This film is based on a true story and tries to heighten awareness of these sort of situations happening for real, bureaucracy, unfairness, etc. I haven't seen a trailer for it although checking just now I see it is on at the Odeon here. I have already seen three films this week so I don't think this one will fit in though, nor would it particularly be near the top. If I had nothing to do I would probably see it. Thanks Raymondo.

    1. I hesitate to claim that you wouldn't like it, Rachel, though I'd be surprised if you had a higher opinion of it than I do.
      It's a subject that's been rarely tackled on the cinema screen - never, as far as I know. So one must give it its due. But it seemed to be yet another case of missed opportunity. Such a darned shame it came out like this.

  3. Lawks, the subject matter is a bit of a downer for me, as I approach my dotage kicking and screaming. It needs top notch writing, which is lacking, it seems. That being said, I would rather like to see Peter Bowles again. He was very suave and dashing in "To the manor born" in the Seventies.

    1. I'm at the same stage of life, Judith, though in my case as I have no companion what I most fear is being forcibly put in one of these places and have to be subjected to enforced social contact with others when I would far rather be left alone. Frankly, I'd rather be out of life completely than have to put up with an ordeal like that. I'm therefore not quite in the position of these two who have a decades-old bond, they not knowing any other way of life. I don't know if you're nearer to their situation or mine. But having said that, the story-line is not exactly the downer you imply it might be, rather surprisingly so. But the writing is really so banal. Hardly anything of interest which adds to the story comes out of anyone's mouth, and it does the film a huge disservice.

      As I'm not a great TV watcher I've seen Peter Bowles in hardly anything at all on the small screen, though I'm familiar with his name and I see that he's done a great deal of TV work.

  4. Ray,
    A good script is so essential to a good film. I've seen So many films with interesting story lines that were ruined by pedestrian scripts with predictable words. I’ve ejected more than one DVD once I hear the trite words “Be careful” and “You’ll be alright” as the character lay dying. Thanks for the warning.

    1. It's such a lame script, Ron, lazy to a fault. I think a lot of people wouldn't care, or even notice it, but I need to hear dialogue with some 'teeth' and imagination to it. In this one stronger dialogue would have assisted me from stopping wanting to nod off.