In The Time of Their Lives, two women from different worlds bravely challenge the expectations of others and set off on an adventure, both having been searching for revival.
A chance meeting aboard a coach bound for Bournemouth UK, sees the unlikeliest of friends getting together. Sixties starlet, Helen Shelley, played by Joan Collins, bumps into a quiet woman from the English suburbs as she is headed on an outing to the seaside. Helen Shelley has lived shuttered away in a home, crippled and alone, and Priscilla has endured a life of deep unhappiness. The two eventually slip away from the rest of the care-home crowd when they reach the seaside, led by Helen. A quiet drink is shared and the former actress asks Priscilla to help her by journeying to France to attend a funeral for a friend. The blue-eyed Priscilla, portrayed superbly by Pauline Collins, immediately refuses. When her newfound friend incredulously asks why, as she has come this far, the other woman reminds her that getting caught up on the bus was a mistake. Helen sums up a charming smile and replies, ‘That’s how the best things happen.’ Her vivaciousness, despite her ailments and age, sets the tone of the film.
In short, The Time of Their Lives is about seeking second chances. It’s about rekindling the love affair with life – and love. Both women have their reasons for getting away. Helen desperately wants to live again as a famous actress; Priscilla wishes to take a break from a home life that still carries the grief of her son’s death many years ago, something her husband, Frank, has always blamed her for.
At one moment, it seems destined that Priscilla will ultimately abandon her quest with Helen Shelley. But when she returns, she explains why she came back: ‘I needed a break. And then… I can carry on. It is important to carry on, isn’t it?’
The Time of Their Lives is filled with that daring energy that drives us to be all what we want to be, no matter what others may think. It heralds back to other films such as the defiance of Shirley Valentine and actresses the like of Shirley MacLaine who heroically desire to live life by their own rules. The artist Alberto Rossetti, played by Franco Nero, symbolises the desire to rediscover love. He cuts a charming figure as the romantic recluse, and when seen on screen together with the character Hellen Shelley, one can’t help recall the great names of the golden age of cinema such as Richard Burton and Liz Taylor. Jesse Short
‘The Time of Their Lives’ is in cinemas now.