While significant roles for older actresses continue to pretty much vanish with age, Anthony Byrne’s How About You is an immensely pleasurable unanticipated surprise to the contrary, spotlighting, not just one, but a whole treasure trove ensemble of one of cinema’s least appreciated natural resources. Vanessa Redgrave, Brenda Fricker, Imelda Staunton, and the late Joan O’Hara, to whom the film is dedicated, charm their way into audience hearts as the eccentric, demanding and often delightfully insufferable residents of a once elegant Irish old age home, now in disarray.
Nearly at wit’s end presiding over her contentious charges who have managed to drive most of the other residents from the home, is Kate (Orla Brady), a fussy young widow suddenly called away during the approaching Christmas holidays, to tend to a family emergency. Kate reluctantly leaves her younger rebellious slacker sister Ellie (Hayley Atwell) in charge, a situation which results in a series of wild calamities, both in the home and the community.
Each of these difficult women is fleshed out with warmth, humor, and a kind of tough love compassion. From Redgrave’s tipsy former diva stage starlet to the Nightingale sisters Heather (Brenda Fricker) and Hazel (Imelda Staunton), who are not really old at all but as pretend seniors, find their voluntary isolation from the real world comforting.
Written by Jean Pasley and adapted from the short story, The Hardcore, by Maeve Binchy, How About You dazzles with its gutsy geriatric group portrait of these female elders of the tribe. And who have much to teach their younger counterparts about existential euphoria, righteous rage, and embracing the things that matter most in life sooner than later. And about the tremendous depth of feeling inhabiting these seasoned souls tempered with lifelong wisdom, whether on or off screen, that declares in no uncertain terms, get used to it.