My mother is no longer able to follow complex or fast-paced movies, which is not surprising given that she is 89. Her short-term memory is problematic; she tends to do better with long-term memories. Yet, while old movies and TV shows are easier for her to follow, sometimes she still has difficulty following the story and loses track of the characters. At least with old movies, the pacing is slower (as is the flow of text in closed captioning) and the plots are a little more familiar. She also remembers some of the old actors and actresses that she watched when she was younger.
Two movies always seem to work: The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland (1938) and The African Queen with Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn (1951). I have no idea how many times Mom has seen these movies over the years, but the important thing is that she can always follow the plot and stays engaged all the way through the movie. Fortunately, I love these movies, too, so I don’t particularly mind that we re-watch them now and again.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0029843/) is just a fun movie with an amazing cast. It’s light-hearted and predictable. There are sword fights. It has romance. It has humor and an underlying theme of honorable actions. It has rousing music and bright colors. In many ways, it’s easy to see why Mom loves this movie. She will even stop knitting and devote all her attention to the film.
The African Queen (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043265/) is, in some ways, the opposite of Robin Hood. The movie is quieter, with no flashy costumes or sword fights. Most of the movie features two people on a boat being very polite to one another as they fall in love and plot to destroy a German warship during WWI. Yet, Mom loves this one, too, and will always watch when it is on.
Having these two quite different movies as surefire hits demonstrates how complicated it is to figure out what works. Of course, these movies also have some things in common. They both highlight loyalty, focus on a bigger goal and promote doing the right thing. Of course, it may be that she loves them because she can (at least sort of) remember them – they are familiar and that alone may be enough to score higher points.
With other classic movies, she loves them one day and is frustrated the next. Perhaps she sometimes remembers them and other times does not. Maybe her frustration is because in the back of her mind somewhere, she knows that she should know a particular movie but cannot place it. Often, she misses the gist of the plot and misidentifies the characters, so it’s understandable if she’s not engaged. Amusingly, she often falls for the charm of the murderer or con artist. While it is understandable to fall for the charming and handsome scoundrel (especially when you forget that he’s the bad guy), Mom often is tough on the hero or heroine, finding fault with them and completely misreading the situation. For example, she derides Miss Marple a nosy old bird, which, well, she is but … she’s Miss Marple! Or Mom will call the wife out for being snotty or bitchy to her husband, which is usually when I point out that wife just found out that her husband is having an affair with her best friend!
Anyway, at least The Adventures of Robin Hood and The African Queen are winners for both of us, which is better than Mom’s other surefire category: Westerns. (No offense to those who love westerns, just not my cuppa!) Mom has always loved westerns, perhaps because there usually is an obvious good guy and bad guy, and the stories often are straightforward. Unlike her penchant for the charmer in mysteries or other movies, she invariably goes for the good guy in westerns.
Oh well, we’ll always have Sherwood Forest.