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Non-Review Review: Finding Your Feet

Finding Your Feet is a fairly placid and mostly unobjectionable film that adheres to an increasingly familiar formula, a gentle reminder that life can often begin at sixty.

Finding Your Feet largely coasts off the charm of its cast, who seem to be having an enjoyable time with one another and appreciating the opportunity to find themselves cast as romantic leads in a globe-trotting adventure. In particular, there is something disarming in seeing Timothy Spall cast as a charming romantic lead, a disarmingly sincere lovable rogue who inevitably scrubs up quite nicely. Finding Your Feet offers very few surprises, but that is part of the attraction, perhaps worried that too many surprises might throw off the presumed viewer.

Spall good, baby.

However, Finding Your Feet is too awkward and clumsy to allow the audience to get entirely caught up in the familiar beats and rhythms of the tale. The familiar plotting of Finding Your Feet helps compensate for some strange storytelling decisions, with major character arcs unfolding off-screen and the film trying to fill its run time with things happening rather than focusing on the people to whom these things are happening.

Finding Your Feet is bland and inoffensive, its central cast providing a disarming charm that the movie never quite earns.

The sequel will feature a new addition to the cast and will be titled, ‘So You Think You Can Charles Dance?’

The story of Finding Your Feet is familiar in its broad strokes. Imelda Staunton plays Sandra Abbott, an upper-class woman who finds her life turned upside down during her husband’s retirement party. A sudden change in circumstances forces Sandra to move back in with her sister Elizabeth, played by Celia Imrie. Initially openly hostile to her new surroundings, unwilling to loosen up and embrace the opportunities that life has afforded her, Sandra eventually comes to appreciate a different pace of life.

It is perhaps inaccurate to suggest that Finding Your Feet hits all the expected romantic comedy and life-begins-at-sixty story beats, but the film does firmly adhere to a familiar narrative template. Sandra is initially stand-off-ish towards plucky jack-of-all-trades Charlie, but inevitably finds herself softening towards him. Sandra comes to appreciate the part of herself that she buried underneath her upper-class status anxiety, while wondering whether she will allow herself to ever fall in love again.

Taking a bath on her property.

Ironically for a movie that uses dancing as a central metaphor for its mid-life rejuvenation, Finding Your Feet misses several key steps along the way. The script hits all the necessary beats in terms of plot, from the sharp introduction of a third-act complication to the inevitable last-minute mad dash. However, it consigns its big moments to off-screen revelations. Sandra’s character arc seems to unfold in the space between scenes, one small act of rebellion leading into a complete turnaround in all of her attitudes.

Sandra suddenly decides to completely and unquestioningly embrace everything with which she was previously uncomfortable. Her sudden about-face catches her colleagues off-guard. “You changed your mind?” asks one of her fellow dancers. “About a lot of things,” Sandra replies, which serves as awkward expositional shorthand to cover up the fact that the movie glossed over the longest part of her journey – from initial tentative rebellion to outright revolution.

All you can feet.

There is a casualness to the way in which Finding Your Feet plays through its familiar beats, as if understanding that the audience knows exactly what the movie is doing. By this logic, there is never a need for the movie to put in the effort to actually sell any of these plot developments. It is enough to outline the narrative arc without filling it in. It is very telling that the third-act romantic hurdle is resolved off-screen in an off-hand piece of last-minute voice-over.

To pick two small concrete examples of the film’s use of shorthand to avoid filling in the details, Finding Your Feet never explains how a carefully-choreographed flash mob dance sequence so perfectly incorporates Sandra when she inevitably has a last-minute change of heart. Similarly, during a mad dash against the clock when it looks like Sandra might let her new friends down, Finding Your Feet never explains how her friends allowed Sandra to leave it all so last-minute, save for the fact that this type of scene is obligatory in films like this.

She’s a Lady.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, she’s a Lady.

These are not so much missteps as missed steps, and it often feels like Finding Your Feet is compensating for its lack of focus and development by layering plots on top of one another. A lot of things happen to Sandra over the course of the film, conveniently arriving at points when it looks like the movie might have to wrap up ahead of scheduled because these smaller obligatory moments have not been fleshed out. There is a strange ad-libbed quality to the script, as if the production team are working from a rough draft.

To be fair, the only times that Finding Your Feet falls flat are moments of tone. There are several transitions in the film that are jarring, the movie shifting gears from life-affirming fish-out-of-water comedy about growing old in the twenty-first century to something more naturalistic and affecting. Sequences in which the primary male characters confront the mortality of their life-long partners as genuinely moving, in large part due the work of Timothy Spall and David Hayman. However, they feel awkward juxtaposed with dark punchlines about erections and heart attacks.

Letting Jo.

Still, Finding Your Feet never goes completely off the rails, in large part due its cast. Finding Your Feet is elevated by the casting of its central characters. Imelda Staunton and Celia Imrie are playing very broadly drawn archetypes moving through familiar arcs, but they bounce well enough off each other that this familiar never breeds contempt. Similarly, Spall makes for an endearingly off-kilter romantic lead, and Hayman makes enough of an impression that he feels underused.

There is a very casual feeling to all of this, as if the performers are simply enjoying the opportunity to anchor a movie together and to play through these familiar arcs. This sense of casual fun is perhaps best reflected in the film’s use of Joanna Lumley, who earns her “and” credit by occasionally wandering into group sequences to close scenes with witty zingers or potent advice. (At one point, she laments online dating, reflecting that her last date brought his wife along. “In my interests, I’d accidentally listed ‘swinging’ instead of ‘swimming’.”

Finding Your Feet is a decidedly unchallenging story about late-life self-discovery, one which serves up everything that the audience expects of it. It offers little in the way of innovation, often failing to properly stress the right beats within the familiar framework. However, all of this is rendered a lot more palatable by a strong cast clearly enjoying themselves. Finding Your Feet dusts off some old moves, missing more than a couple, but is delivered in an inoffensive manner.

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