Current Issue #488

Film Review:
23 Walks

Writer, director and theatre sort Paul Morrison’s pleasing drama feels almost like a two-hander stage play, with seasoned stars Alison Steadman and Dave Johns pretty much the entire show.

But that’s fine, because both offer strong, sensitive performances here, and help offset an occasional whiff of contrivance and even mushiness.

On their first walk in a north London park, locals and strangers Dave (Johns, best-known as the titular lead in Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake) and Fern (the more prolific Steadman) clash because she thinks his German shepherd is aggressive and might hurt her little Yorkie. Friendly Dave is embarrassed and makes a big deal of keeping the mutt on the leash when they meet next, and soon they’re becoming closer, with visits to each other’s houses, shared laughter and, eventually, the chance that this might turn serious and sexual.

Naturally, both are carefully keeping secrets, and at a critical moment they split (Dave says the relationship has unfortunately gone “doolally”) and he finds himself distracted and worrying about a whole series of other issues as life keeps intruding. And although you’ve certainly seen this sort of thing before, there’s some convincing pain here, as director Morrison explores just some of the particular problems facing, dare it be said, ‘older people’.

Furthermore, the would-be-thorny concept of ‘older people’ having sex, onscreen and off, has always been a problem for more than a few people out there (remember how needlessly ‘controversial’ the late great Paul Cox’s Innocence was 20 years ago?), but Morrison doesn’t care, and so Fern and Dave’s intimacy is shown and discussed in unashamed (if not explicit) detail.

In the end, there really isn’t much else to say about this one: Johns and Steadman are good, London looks nice, and the emotions are just rich and real enough.

Oh, and the pooches are very cute too.

Reviewer Rating

23 Walks (M) is in cinemas now

DM Bradley

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