Previously on our Blog we have discussed that in modern media it's often hard to find positive representations of age and the aging process. However, examples do exist and we have found beneficial and purposeful executions in some of our favorite children’s books. We are now turning our gaze to movies and some of our favorite examples of inspiring older characters.
The Grandfather from The Princess Bride (1987):
Director: Rob Reiner
The Grandfather played by Peter Falk
In this family-friendly cult classic a young boy (Fred Savage) is offered by his grandfather (Peter Falk) to read him a bedtime story until he feels better. While suspicious he will be bored at first, the boy is soon entranced by the tale of Princess Buttercup and her dashing love Westley. What follows is a rollicking tale of “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles,” and some shrieking eels to name just a few (Reiner,1987). What I love about the character of The Grandfather in this film is he is unswayed by his grandson’s hesitance and delivers a vibrant performance. He and his grandson share a multi-generational experience and prove that you are never too old, or too young, to enjoy a good story. And no one can tell you a story quite like a grandparent.
Claire from Letters to Juliet (2010):
Director: Gary Winick
Claire played by Vanessa Redgrave
If you are looking for a charming romantic comedy, this is a great film to choose. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) travels to Verona where she finds the “Secretaries of Juliet” who anonymously give advice to women trying to find true love. Hidden away she finds a letter that has been lost for 50 years and decides to find the writer, Claire (Vanessa Redgrave). Together she and Claire journey to find her lost love Lorenzo. What's unique about Claire is that she isn’t presented as the trope of the wise, aged mentor. While she certainly is wise and offers Sophie advice throughout the film, that is not her primary function. She’s a character in her own right, not just there to aid the main protagonist. She and Sophie are both equal protagonists, with their own goals, motives, and character development. It is a refreshing break from form and heartwarming to see a romance that proves true love can be found at any age. Vanessa Redgrave delivers an endearing and emotional performance that viewers will love.
Lucius Fox from The Dark Knight films (2005, 2008, and 2012)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Lucius Fox played by Morgan Freeman
As one of the most well recognized actors of our time, is there anything Morgan Freeman can’t do? In Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of Batman, Freeman plays the cunning and steadfast Lucius Fox. Fox oversees the creation of much of the technology Batman needs to hunt down Gotham’s criminals such as the infamous and insane Joker (Heath Ledger). Throughout the course of the trilogy, Fox is shown to have a strong moral compass. He refuses to back down from many challenges to his ideology or sacrifice his personal integrity for anyone, even Batman himself. Freeman’s portrayal of fierce resolve is an admirable quality which makes Lucius Fox an apt addition to our list.
Abuela Claudia from In the Heights (2021):
Directed by Jon M Chu.
Abuela Claudia played by Olga Merediz
Based on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s original Broadway show of the same name, In the Heights is a musical journey following the interweaving stories of the residents of Washington Heights. At the heart of the community is Abuela Claudia, portrayed by Olga Merediz. Abuela Claudia is everyone’s Abuela; from the charismatic narrator Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), the brilliant college student Nina (Leslie Grace), or the rambunctious teenager Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV). Whether it be preparing her special home-cooked meals or being a hand to hold in difficult times, Abuela Claudia equally loves and cares for them all with a warm smile. In her poignant song, Paciencia y Fe (patience and faith), she sings of the long journey she took to get to where she is now and of her mother and how “Mamá, what do you do when your dreams come true? I've spent my life inheriting dreams from you. I made it through?” (Chu, 2021). It is a breathtaking but also heart-wrenching performance detailing the sacrifices many older generations made in search of the American Dream. Overall, Olga Merediz’s performance reminds us of how fortunate we are that souls like Abeaula Claudia brighten our world.
Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies (2001-2003 and 2012-2014):
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Gandalf played by Sir Ian McKellen
A personal favorite of mine, and the resurgence of the fantasy genre, The Lord of The Rings Trilogy follows Frodo the Hobbit and The Fellowship, a group of nine companions tasked with destroying the Dark Lord Sauron and bringing peace to Middle Earth. Of the companions, Gandalf the Wizard is the quintessential wise mentor from The Hero's Journey. He’s also the oldest figure on our list, at several thousand years by the time the story takes place. Portrayed by Sir Ian McKellen, Gandalf is keen, powerful, and unbothered if he has to knock a few heads together with his trusty walking stick/wizard’s staff. Gandalf is a knowledgeable scholar, skilled swordsman, sage councilor, forceful leader, and a devoted friend. His desire to find the good in others and bring out their full potential is essential for the success of Frodo’s quest.
I hope you enjoyed our picks of positive representations of age in movies. Let us know on Facebook or contact us if you have another favorite example we should add. In the meantime, we are ready to settle in with a bag of popcorn and a fun movie night as the colder weather sets in.