“Lovely, Still” offers a genuine surprise

Many students at Southern Oregon University are quite young; some are a little older, and few are much older. Youth is often characterized by feelings of immortality and freedom, as well as a certain naÑ—vety. Although we know we will all grow old and die, we rarely put much thought into becoming senior citizens or the type of life that comes with advanced age. The possibility of losing some, or all, mobility or losing some function of the brain – even to the point of going completely insane – seems so far off that we can hardly conceive of the notion.

That is why, in dealing with issues of age and the acceptance of the diminished capacities that accompany advanced age, “Lovely, Still” could be deemed a movie for the “older” crowd. However, that would be a mistake. The movie carries a profound message for viewers of any age. Taking into account that, again, we will all get old and die, “Lovely, Still” could serve as grist for the mill when considering the deeper meanings that growing older brings to our grandparents, parents, and someday ourselves.

Robert Malone (Martin Landau), a geriatric bagboy who enjoys drawing, lives alone in a quiet suburb. At first glance, he seems like any other friendly old man in the neighborhood. When he comes home one night to find his new neighbor, Mary (Ellen Burstyn), in the dark house he seems frightened and mistrusting, yet intrigued. Once the confusion has settled, she asks him to dinner the following night. Mary mentions that Robert should pick the restaurant for their “date.” This date excites Robert so much that he seeks advice from everyone he works with, including his younger boss, Mike (Adam Scott).

However, Mary’s daughter, Alex (Elizabeth Banks), doesn’t seem to be too keen on the idea of her mother dating. But the courting continues and all goes well. Both Robert and Mary are filled with a joy and happiness that is brought on by the freshness of the relationship, often acting in an adolescent manner, waiting by the phone, hoping to spend the entire day together.

“Lovely, Still” is filled with geriatric, frequently sentimental, humor with broad appeal.  In fact, before the final 20 or so minutes, ”Lovely, Still” does seem as if it might have nothing to offer other than a sweet, heart-warming story and a little, almost trite, sentimentality. This changes when hazy, nightly dreams reveal a dark side to Robert’s life. The movie takes an unexpected and dramatic twist when the answer to his dreams are revealed, leaving the viewer stunned and paralyzed.

It is difficult to review this movie without giving away the dramatic ending, though it should be noted that there are not many stories told from the perspective of older people. We often tend to be ageists, even without really noticing. This is a good opportunity to enjoy a rare story that may well leave viewers contemplating their own mortality.

WARNING: This movie occurs during the Christmas season and features a wealth of Christmas songs. Viewers may find that these songs tend to linger in their head for days and days after seeing the movie. But it’s still worth it.


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