Golden Years [Die goldenen Jahre] — German Film Festival 2023

Review by Michele E. Hawkins.

Retirement can be a two-edged sword, especially if you’re a married couple with very different ideas about what life will be like now that your days are free to do with whatever you wish.

Peter (Stefan Kurt) and Alice (Esther Gemsch) are one such couple.  Their different aspirations for the retirement years come starkly into conflict when their children surprise them, at Peter’s retirement party, with the gift of a cruise.  Peter simply doesn’t want to go; Alice hopes that the cruise will reset their marriage and lead to a new life of travel and adventure.  When Alice seeks to pin down a date for the cruise, Peter tries to put her off, even suggesting that they obtain a refund.  Their dissension over the cruise contributes to friction between them, and matters come to an unexpected head when events in the lives of best friends Magali (Elvira Plüss) and Heinz (Ueli Jäggi) turn everyone’s lives upside down.

The stage is now set for rough waters ahead, but perhaps also for the kind of invaluable self-realisations that can open the way for a joyous life.

Stefan Kurt and Esther Gemsch make a truly convincing couple as Peter and Alice, with so much of their inner journeys of angst, disappointment, resignation, desire, and loneliness writ large in their facial expressions and body language.  In subtle, nuanced performances, they portray two good people whose lives have just quietly gone in different directions over the many years of their marriage and who now find themselves stuck uncomfortably with each other all day every day.

Ueli Jäggi makes of Peter’s best friend, Heinz, the kind of man you would be happy to have on your side.  Jäggi perfectly portrays Heinz as gentle and loyal and hoping in his life only to have the company of someone who cares about him and for whom he can be a good companion.

And Gundi Ellert as their larger-than-life new friend Michi, a woman who has come full circle through trauma, brings to the screen an energetic foil for the other characters.

Golden Years offers enchantment and hope in portraying a time in life when more years are behind than are ahead; a time when realising your dreams, after deferral to duty and responsibility to others, may require merely the courage to be true to yourself.

Screening at Palace cinemas.

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