When I sit down to talk to the average cinema goer and the topic of Australian films pop up they are often very quick to point out that we do ‘genre films pretty well.’ That is of course very true, as Occupation: Rainfall that is in cinemas attests to, but I would also argue that Australian filmmakers do witty films exceptionally well as well. If you think of films like The Castle or Rams they fit comfortable well into the category and for the most part worked for me.
Now comes the latest entrant into that genre the brand new film from director Mark Lamprill (Goddess) – Never Too Late. If I am really honest Lamprill was one of the reasons why I was a little bit hesitant about heading into the cinema to watch this film – after his last two films, A Few Less Men and Goddess were absolute stinkers. Luckily things were a little bit different this time around.
Written by Luke Preston (Wasted) Never Too Late centres around a group of men begrudgingly living in a nursing home. The men first met during the Vietnam War were they were known as the men who could break out of anywhere. Now days though the men live very different lives. Jeremiah Caine (Dennis Waterman – New Tricks) still tries to be the womaniser he once was but ill-health is catching up with him while Angus Wilson (Jack Thompson – High Ground) is a shell of the man he once was as his memory has failed him. Then there is the cranky James Wendell (Roy Billing – The Dish) who has been left all alone because his son Bruce (Shane Jacobson – Kenny) no longer talks to him.
Last but not least there is there fearless leader Jack Bronson (James Cromwell – The Green Mile) who feigns being sicker than he really is to keep the wool over the eyes of the Retirement Homes’ strict management. Jack decides that the group is going to do one last escape though with the hidden intent of him being able to meet up the love of his life – Norma McCarthy (Jacki Weaver – Silver Linings Playbook) before she succumbs to dementia. The other men agree but only if he will help them with their dreams as well.
I found Never Too Late a lot better than some of the films that Lamprill has made in the past, but it was still a film that could have been a lot better. Yes, the caper side of the film works well and the stellar cast make sure that the acting is top notch whether they are called to do a dramatic scene or a comedic scene. But at the same time it feels like the film also misses out on the perfect opportunity to explore what life is like for the average Vietnam veteran.
The way that the Vietnam War is treated in this film almost has that air of ‘Americanism’ in it that we see in American films. These characters are heroes, that is true but the film seems to overlook things such as the fact that these men are at times being treated very roughly by a Vietnamese doctor, it is a little unbelievable that at no time the men never say anything slightly racist back or seem to suffer from any PTSD that would be re-awoken by being treated that way, especially after it is revealed that they were POWs who were tortured during the war.
Still the comedic side of this film is what carries it and as usual actors such as Roy Billing embrace that side of the film and run with it. As you would expect it is often the scenes that Billing shares with Shane Jacobson that are amongst the funniest in the film. The biggest surprise for me though was Jack Thompson who also seemed to enjoy the comedy side of things and his actions made me chuckle at least once or twice.
Never Too Late is a good little film. It is not the masterpiece that some of the Aussie films that have surfaced over the past twelve months have been, but it does enough to make its audience laugh although I should point out this will be appreciated even more by an older audience.