The Fault In Our Nostalgias
Ritesh Batra makes a wonderful transition from Lunch Box set in the suburbs of Bombay to the burbs of London. This movie has a old world feeling in spite of being set in the now. A curmudgeon to his present and nostalgic to a fault, Tony Webster is forced to face his past when he receives a note about a will. Trouble with this film is that it is too beautiful for us to be irritated with the protagonist and the end is so downplayed you step out a tad dissatisfied.
Over the last couple of years, we have seen many good movies centered around crotchety old men, the best being Toni Erdmann (German) and A Man Called Ove (Swedish), and before that we have the homegrown Piku too. So watching Jim Broadbent in a role of a divorced old man who has a very grown up, very pregnant daughter, and a rather practical ex-wife who forces him (as much as her polite British upbringing will let her) to learn to live in the present was a great idea.
The book is impossible to film, they said. But Ritesh Batra brings a wonderful film on the big screen. And as you watch the story unfold, you realise why it seems so easy. We Indians too have a parent or a grandfather who chooses to reminisce and live in those good old days, frittering away the present…
Jim Broadbent plays Tony Webster, who runs a small camera repair shop (because his first girlfriend gifted him his very first camera) lives alone in a neat suburban house. He is rather rude to the mailman and you don’t like him very much. And you begin to see the humor in your instant dislike because you see how easily the chatty customer gets under his skin.
The film turns into all kinds of beautiful when the letter informing him that he has inherited something from someone from his past stuns him. He has to not only try and figure out why his past stubbornly wants to remain his past but also understand why he is being forced to learn to live in the present.
The interaction between his ex-wife (the amazing Harriet Walter) and Tony Webster are like pure gold. You know he’s itching for a fight, and that she has impeccable logic, which prevents her from getting into an argument. It is something you may have observed in your own home, when a mother simply raises her eyebrow at the irrational demands made by an irritated father, instead of getting into a fight.
The freckles of Freya Mavor need to be awarded a star on their own. She’s all that the writer made her to be. Teasing, mysterious, and unpredictable. Someone who will turn quiet college freshmen insane. And the same goes for Emily Mortimer and Charlotte Rampling! I can totally understand why Tony would look back at Emily Mortimer waving that my-hands-are-tied-but-i’m-attracted wave, and how he would stalk Charlotte Rampling to her Highgate home…
Guilt, nostalgia and a search for happiness drive us to chuckle at Tony Webster, slide down the theatre seats with a sense of knowing all these characters in our real lives, and coming away not as irritated at the old man as you did in the beginning.