I do not usually comment on films that I have seen only once. I know full well that the immediate response to a film is very subjective and comments are often too biased by ideology and life experience to have any general value. But this time I will make superficial remarks about Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010) on general release this week. I was pleasantly surprised by the character of Helena played by Gemma Jones (aged 68). The actor’s physique and acting made her sympathetic and her resort to alcohol and clairvoyance to get over the distress of being left by her husband, plausible.
One scene I particularly appreciated is the way she stood up to her daughter who was asking her for still more financial help. Yes her refusal to finance her is questionable in its reliance on the clairvoyant’s advice but after all it is her decision and she stuck by it. In an absurd Allen’s logic it was after all her daughter who sent her to the clairvoyant in the first place. But did she deserve the outpour of insults her daughter showers her with? It is impossible not to compare the mother/daughter scene with the similar one in Kureishi’s The Mother. In the former the old woman stands her grounds with assurance while in the latter the mother accepts the physical assault of her daughter meekly and submissively.
Another aspect of the film that I thought was interesting is the way the two old people Helena and Jonathan get together. It is not sexual attraction that is emphasized here but the sharing of the experience of their recent loss – separation for Helena and death of his wife for Jonathan. Their interest in the supernatural in dealing with their pain makes for a light-hearted film, a film that nevertheless touches on the real life of older people.