Finding Your Feet begins in a rather stilted manner, and for a short while the thought of sitting through two hours of pretentious aristocratic blather seems like a lot to bear. Of course, with its title suggesting a renewed lease on life, the film was always going to have its ebbs and flows. I guess I just wasn’t in the mood to hitch along for the ride. I had to remind myself of the target audience, and I had to put their interests before my own. And obviously this is the type of film they would love. But then something happened (I guess some type of cinema-magic dust must have got into my session or something… yes, that’s it) and I found myself caught up in an entirely wonderful, emotionally-driven story.
Sandra (Imelda Staunton) is a middleclass housewife (and snob) whose life falls apart when she catches her husband having an affair with her friend on the night of his retirement. The revelation happens in front of all of their family and friends, and when faced with humiliation she turns to her estranged sister, Bif (Celia Imrie), a free-spirited “new-age’ woman who lives in a shoe-box council flat. It is an unexpected and – at first – problematic reacquaintance that challenges both women’s ideals, brings upon a reevaluation of life and a renewed friendship following decades of silence.
Finding Your Feet is a run-of-the-mill crowd pleaser that offers a contrived story accompanied by lovely performances. As soon as the crisis is established in the first act, the story’s trajectory is a predictable, by-the-book formula that few people will find exceptional. And yet, there is a strong sense of awareness, and director Richard Loncraine (Wimbledon, The Special Relationship) knows what to do with the material. Unconcerned about where the story ends, Loncraine channels his energy into making the overall journey as fulfilling as possible. What he conjures is a spirited character study, which offers more benevolence than the average moviegoer might expect.
If you take one part Shirley Valentine and one part Hampstead (with a touch of Beaches) you will end up with Finding Your Feet, and you will inevitably fall head over heels for its delightful assortment of characters. Staunton lights up the screen with a stunning performance that sees her grapple with a whole gamut of reactions as she takes her character from one emotion to another. From her snobbish introduction, to the heartbreak of her discovery, to the fear of the unknown, to the acceptance of her circumstance and, finally, to the embrace of life… it is a fully committed performance that further solidifies her reputation as one of the greats.
With that said, there’s a genuine competitor at her side: Imrie offers the perfect counterbalance as the life-loving bohemian sister. It’s wonderful to see Imrie break away from the usual prudish typecasting and exploring something wholeheartedly frivolous and endearing, and if it weren’t for Staunton’s impressive character-arc, I would declare Imrie’s performance to be the show stealer. There’s much to be said when such a generic film as this can offer two fully rounded performances that vie for best in show.
They are supported by an ensemble of zealous performances from the likes of Timothy Spall, David Hayman, John Sessions and Joanna Lumley. Spall’s turn as the loveable friend, turned love interest, is amongst his most tender and unexpected roles yet. And what a juxtaposition it is to his recent turn as the deplorable Nazi scholar in Denial. He lights up the screen with his infectious smile and irresistible tenderness. Hayman’s role is limited to being a glorified background actor with just a few moments to showcase his talent, but when he does it’s such a sweet thing to behold. Sessions does the creepy cheating husband routine well with a chequebook of pathetic excuses to rally the audience to get behind Sandra, and while Lumley’s presence in the film is perplexing (she has no purpose), it’s nice to see her in a less animated role. I must note that I was overjoyed to see Josie Lawrence play the home-wrecking mistress. I afore Lawrence and consider her to be a hugely underutilised actress. She isn’t given much to do in this instance, but gosh it’s nice to see her.
Finding Your Feet isn’t the type of film that will win any awards, but it’s sure to enjoy a long life in the home-entertainment market. Fans of crowd-pleasers like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Lady in the Van and The Hundred-Foot Journey will delight in its depiction of senior citizens loving life, and they will benefit from its unexpected depth of character, each with their own emotional anchor.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10