27 September 2023

23 Walks

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

Writer/director: Paul Morrison, Rialto Distribution.

Cast: Alison Steadman, Dave Johns, Rakhee Thakrar, Natalie Simpson.

Sometimes love is a walk in the park. It is also a look into how our past can stay with us, seeking to pursue new lives, as we get older. This is an endearing drama about finding love later in life.

It follows a couple in their 60s, Dave (Johns, Fisherman’s Friends, I, Daniel Blake) and Fern (Steadman, Pride & Prejudice, Gavin & Stacey, Orphan Black, Life is Sweet), who get to know one another over the course of 23 dog walks in a north London park.

The two older strangers have been bruised by their individual circumstance, and then romance begins to blossom. While there is tension at first, they slowly build a rapport due, in part, to their fondness for each other’s adorable pets, Tilly and Henry, respectively.

However, Dave, a retired nurse, and Fern, a receptionist, haven’t been completely honest with one another. Their future together may be threatened by the secrets they have withheld.

A few unforeseen curls and curves drive a rather delightful and layered sequence of events. Director Morrison, Oscar-nominated for his debut feature Solomon & Gaenor, does not shy away from the stigmas and issues about old age. Morrison (Little Ashes, Wondrous Oblivion) cleverly manages the intense topics, without resorting to quick fix the struggles.

Realistic themes overlay the storyline: trust, resolution, honesty and loss of love, hope and independence. The power of the budding relationship – the ups and downs – is palpable. They hit us all, irrespective of age.

23 Walks will open in cinemas nationally on 30 July, and late August in Victoria.

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