Receiving its World Premiere at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival, where it’s also nominated for the Michael Powell Award, Simon Hunter’s Edie features a stand-out performance from Sheila Hancock, who takes a fairly standard story and makes it into a truly inspiring tale.
Hancock is Edie, an elderly woman living under the hand of her husband, who she’s been taking care of for the past thirty years after a blood clot left him reliant on her. In the aftermath of his death, her daughter wants to ship her off to a home, but Edie has other ideas. She’s long cherished a postcard sent from her now deceased father years ago promising they’d one day reunite on Suilven, one of the most distinctive mountains in Scotland. Free and in search of meaning, she packs her bags and heads north, unaware of the magnitude of what she’s to do.
Hancock, in a role that requires her to be on screen for much of the film, is wonderful, her reserve and range – her facial expressions alone reveal many emotions, often all at once – truly impressive. The story may not be original, but the script by Elizabeth O’Halloran – based on a story by director Hunter and Edward Lynden-Bell – conjures up deep emotion at its heart, embedding itself within Edie’s own determination and the tender relationship she strikes up with Jonny (Kevin Guthrie), the co-owner of a local mountaineering shop who evolves from paid trainer to true friend over the course of the film.
The dynamic between Hancock and Guthrie is wonderful to behold, their bickering producing plenty of humorous moments as Edie and Jonny suss each other out and build trust in one another. The film is set in the Scottish highlands, with the scenery playing an important role in the film. Long shots of the mountains and expanse of the remote, brutal, yet romantic wilderness convey the difficult task at hand, but also the loneliness Edie feels – and has felt – in her life. Hunter and cinematographer August Jakobson find interesting ways to shoot that digs into – and expresses – the pathos at the the centre of the film.
There’s also plenty of inspiration to be found, with each step of Edie’s adventure taking her closer to discovering her true self and restoring the happiness she lost for so much of her life. It’s at time sad to see how much one’s life can be lost to circumstances, but the way this film shows what can be done, even later in life, to restore meaning, is encouraging to anyone. Edie may come from a simple story, but it transcends that to become so much more, and tat can be attributed to its cast (Guthrie is also wonderful), the direction, and, eventually, what it means to achieve the unthinkable and break free of a life once lived.