Directed by Michael McGowan (Samuel Goldwyn, 2013)
In Michael McGowan’s touching love story about an aging married couple, Craig and Irene Morrison (James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold) may not “rage against the dying of the light,” but they do struggle against a rising tide of infirmities and petty obstacles. After 60 years of marriage, Craig and Irene are still deeply in love, but they must come to grips with her increasing dementia and the fact that it is no longer safe to live alone in their old rambling farmhouse. So Craig, coming from a long line of shipbuilders, decides he will singlehandedly build them a smaller home.
Naturally Craig and Irene’s children worry about their parents’ safety and the sanity of their father’s grand project. Even Craig’s longtime friends think it unwise for someone his age to get up on a ladder. And the local government building inspector throws one obstacle after another in Craig’s path, demanding compliance with a litany of regulations and issuing repeated and escalating fines, citations, and stop-work orders, ultimately threatening to bulldoze the unfinished home.
Still, Craig is energized by the prospect of building a new home for himself and Irene, and the project sustains him in the face of mounting evidence of Irene’s inevitable decline. He is aware that their time together is rather swiftly running out and that his solution will not prevent the losses looming on the horizon. But for Craig, building this house is the way he can preserve his own identity and honor his love for Irene—for as long as possible.
Loss and decline are the themes of the last third of our lives, and they must be faced with grace and courage. As Hollywood seems fixated on serving up testosterone-addled action figures who promise our adolescents invulnerability, it is heartwarmingly satisfying to see this portrayal of adults adapting to the losses we must all face.
This article appeared in the November 2013 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 78, No. 11, page 42).