If there’s one thing to be learned from the Hatton Garden robbery, it’s that OAPs are not to be underestimated when it comes to audacious heists. Golden Years is a light-hearted, entertaining crime romp that bounces around the high street banks of middle England at a geriatric shuffle. There are plenty of laughs and mishaps along the way and a modicum of social comment on the treatment of the elderly, too. Director and co-writer John Miller tells the tale of a group of grey-haired pals whose pensions are menaced by recession and the existence of their beloved bowls and bingo club threatened with closure.
Throw in the outrage of some young lout driving an Impreza too fast through suburbia and an old chum being mistreated at the local retirement home and the camel’s back is well and truly broken. This simply will not stand and Arthur (Bernard Hill) is on the case with a lot more than a stiff letter to the council. He, in the words of Dylan Thomas, has no intention of going gently into that good night. Planning an unlikely raid on his local building society, a fortuitous stumble allows Arthur to make off with fifty grand. His wife, Martha (Virginia McKenna) – whose Crohn’s medication is no longer covered due to government “re-zoning” – doesn’t take too much persuading to join forces with her most wanted other half.
So begins a Bonnie and Clyde tour of National Trust properties and provincial banks in their shiny new Winnebago. Armed with a concealed banana and cucumber respectively, the unlikely criminal masterminds bamboozle Alun Armstrong’s veteran copper and camera-hogging, permatanned upstart DC Stringer (Brad Moore). Elsewhere the cast is a veritable who’s-who of British small and big screen talent: a typically larger than life Simon Callow and cautious Philip Davis are Arthur’s best mates; a conversation between McKenna and the delightful Una Stubbs about a lack of “slap and tickle” is one of the comedy’s more uproarious moments; and although relegated to the sidelines to some degree as Armstrong’s long-suffering wife, Sue Johnston is effortlessly charming in a brusque kind of way.
Any “Thou shall not steal” moral musing is wilfully swept away as Arthur goes all Robin Hood on big, bad bank bosses with the help of his band of merry cohorts. And we cheer them every step of the way. Miller may be clear in targeting a demographic in the autumn years of life but there is something reassuringly British about the humour and larking about here that will appeal to viewers young and old. Whoever said you couldn’t teach an old dog new tricks?
Matthew Anderson | @behind_theseens