Film & TV

Film Review: 23 Walks

A gentle exploration of love later in life, starring two greats of British screen, Alison Steadman and Dave Johns.

In a North London park, Fern is walking her dog Henry. When he runs up to an off-leash German Shepherd called Tillie, Fern is furious with Tillie’s owner, Dave. This is walk number one of the 23.

Gradually, Fern and Dave, and Henry and Tillie, develop a relationship.

This simple narrative framework is used by director and writer Paul Morrison to explore issues of ageing, loneliness, grief and guilt. He also touches on socio-political issues, without giving them centre stage.

Dave Johns, whose breakout role film role was the eponymous I, Daniel Blake for Ken Loach, once again turns in a fine performance. Starring alongside as Fern is the incredible Alison Steadman, stalwart of the British screen. Johns and Steadman give their roles gravitas and authenticity. Morrison’s decision to put these two together creates magic.

On one level a standard love-story, 23 Walks is so much more than that. There are scenes of harrowing grief, and no romanticization of ageing, or later-life love. All the difficulties and impossibilities are laid out before us, without self-pity, judgement or condescension. The script is livened with humour and quirky observations, but doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable and down-right ugly.

Steadman and Johns are supported by an excellent cast in smaller roles, particularly Marsha Millar and Natalie Simpson.
Although perhaps the two biggest stars are “Sheila” as Tillie and “Dennis” as Henry. Their doggie friendship is a delightful sub-plot to the developing love between Fern and Dave.

23 Walks opens on July 30th.
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