Metro Weekly

When I’m 64

Reel Affirmations 2005

Review by Dan Odenwald

Rating: starstarstarstarstar (5 out of 5)
[Critic’s Pick!]

Saturday, 10/15/2005, 5:00 PM
Feature presentation, $9 at Lincoln Theatre

IT’S THE UNLIKELIEST of love stories that are the most moving, the kind that creep out of nowhere, sparked by little more than mere happenstance. When I’m 64, a BBC television production, is exactly such a story, and it’s mesmerizing.

The film opens at the retirement ceremony of Jim (Alun Armstrong), a Latin teacher at an all-boys’ boarding school. At 64, he’s barely escaped the confines of that school, and he promises himself to do two things before he dies: See the world and fall in love.

His long-planned trip to Botswana is derailed, however, when his aging father suffers a stroke. Trapped in the English countryside, he strikes up an unusual friendship with a Cockney cab driver, Ray (played beautifully by Paul Freeman). At the end of their lives, the two undergo a rebirth of sorts as they discover what it means to fall in love.

When I’m 64 is richer and more subtle than most romances. The age and experience of the couple allow director Jon Jones to offer a deeper, more layered narrative. Unlike the blissful naiveté of young love with all its hope and promise, mature love with all its scars and memory is even more hopeful because it offers a second chance.

The task, of course, is in seizing that chance, a point echoed by Ray’s best friend, Billy, suffering from prostate cancer, who muses, ”It’s such a short little life really.” Such end-of-life reflections give new currency to the joys of Jim and Ray’s romance: long talks on the phone, lazy dinners, learning how to drive.

This newfound exuberance is threatened by Ray’s son when he sees the two men together at a restaurant. ”You’re my father, and it’s horrible,” he shouts. At first, Ray retreats, trapped behind the walls of convention, not entirely different from those of the boarding school that trapped Jim.

But love will persist. If the expected happy (and obvious) ending comes, then it’s richly deserved. Sometimes serendipity does indeed prevail. Like the love affair it seeks to portray, When I’m 64 is an unexpected treasure, tightly-woven and powerfully acted. It will surely delight filmgoers who are lucky enough to stumble across it.

When I'm 64