In the northwest of Scotland, there stands a glacier-carved mountain called Suilven. Climbing it is not for the timid. But that’s not a word that describes the unusual heroine determined to conquer Suilven in the film “Edie .”
Edith Moore — everyone calls her Edie — is no ordinary climber. She’s 83 and has been sedentary for most of that time. That mountain, though, looms large in her mind in this quiet, unrushed and moving tale of age and will.
Director Simon Hunter spends as much time focusing on the crags of the glorious mountain as the ones on Edie’s face, making it sometimes seem as if the Scottish Tourism Board and AARP teamed up to make a movie.
Edie, lovingly portrayed by the brilliant Sheila Hancock, is a bitter and stubborn woman when we first meet her. She’s been taking care of her ill and controlling husband for decades, nursing a long-held dream to climb Suilven. (Her last name is a clue: She wants more). His death liberates her, sending her to the Scottish Highlands, finally.
“I’ve lived a whole life and most of it I would change if I could,” she says. “I’ve wasted so much time doing nothing. I can’t give this up now.”
No one she encounters thinks climbing the mountain is a good idea for a woman in her 80s who sometimes has a hard time opening car doors, except for the young co-owner of a local camping shop, Jonny (a soulful Kevin Guthrie). Edie is laughed at by the locals or considered an easy mark, but Jonny and Edie bond despite their age gap. He feels trapped in his life, too.
Together, they get Edie ready for the tough, three-day climb. There are setbacks — “Leave me alone. I’m geriatric,” she jokes — and cool new gear to buy. (Edie is a little flummoxed by modern climbing jackets. “It’s got holes in it,” she complains. “Yeah,” replies Jonny. “For your thumbs.”)
As far as the plot goes, that’s pretty much it: Older woman attempts to scale a mountain. Hancock fills in so much of the spare script with her quiet control, her expressive face and eyes. When she finally laughs, you feel it.
It might seem flimsy but there’s so much here, including exploring ideas of fulfillment, regret and taking a chance. Plus, it’s refreshing to have a film heroine with white hair and wrinkles. When was the last time we saw an 80-plus woman in a film in a bubble bath drinking wine?
The screenplay by Elizabeth O’Halloran (from a story by Edward Lynden-Bell) doesn’t wrap up everything in a bow at the end — it actually just sort of ends, abruptly — and Debbie Wiseman’s eager and overemotional score sometimes undermines the actors’ more quiet work. But the uplifting “Edie” is worthy of your time, mostly thanks to Hancock and Scotland’s natural beauty.
“Edie,” a Music Box Films release, is unrated. Running time: 102 minutes. Three stars out of four.