Projectionist's rating: 6/10
Another sell out RCC evening for this sweet-natured low-budget 2021 film. It was directed by Gillies MacKinnon. Timothy Spall was Tom, an elderly gentleman who travels from John O’Groats to Lands End on buses for a personal mission, before it is too late. On the way, he meets many people who show compassion and the best side of Britain, as well as a few who show racism and intransigence.
Critics were divided in their views, for some it was ‘cringeworthy’, with the characters he meets on his bus journey seen as sketchy and stereotyped. Others found it uplifting, as it showed the kindness and generosity in humanity.
The film rested on Timothy Spall’s performance and he did not disappoint. He depicted a weary but driven 90 year old who could tolerate modern life and was still strong enough to stand up for what was right.
Some sequences, we felt, didn’t feel believable. When he was found bleeding by a kind couple and taken back to their home, leading to a happy dance with them to a song from My Fair Lady in their living room, it did feel somewhat far-fetched. The final scene when he reaches his destination, welcomed by a crowd that has followed him in social media, was quite stiff and clunky. The use of social media in the film, with various people filming the ‘Bus Hero’ on their mobiles, was interesting but would probably date the film as well.
We spent some time discussing a scene with an officious and aggressive bus driver who refuses to take Tom as his bus pass was invalid. We shared our personal experiences of whether people still gave up their seats to the elderly. We also discussed the racism scene, when a woman with a niqab is racially abused and Tom supports her. Would we do the same?
Rachel Joyce’s book ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry’, on the same theme was recommended, as was the movie ‘The Straight Story.’