As Rosemary and Phillip celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary, one of their guests falls ill and is taken to the hospital. 83-year-old Rosemary, played by the divine Sylvia Sims, injures her leg helping her friend into the ambulance which prompts her own visit to the ER. Thus begins a chain of events that spotlights the disservice that befalls the elderly when because of their age, they are “ignored, talked over or patronized” according to its writer-director, Paul Duddridge. Though based on a real-life incident in Britain, this story may resonate with families across the globe.
We first meet Phillip and Rosemary Twain elegantly dressed in their anniversary outfits in a cell phone video where they’ve recorded their harrowing experiences of the past year. After Rosemary is admitted to the hospital with a leg fracture, a good-natured social worker encourages Phillip, played by the esteemed actor Peter Bowles, to move to a senior rest home so his wife can recuperate without worrying about him. He signs documents that he’s hasn’t read, agrees to terms not fully explained. It is the first of many examples depicted in the film of how the elderly are treated with less respect than someone half their age, with their feelings dismissed and their input ignored.
Rosemary is eventually released and sent home, and Phillip excitedly leaves the rest home to join her. Soon after the couple retire for the night, the police appear at his door with a court order to return him back to the facility. Their son, who we learn has had difficulties in his own life (a prison stint for one) makes it clear that he is not going to be much help as his parents’ lives are mishandled time after time by a well-intentioned, but faulty system.
In a conversation with director Paul Duddridge, we learn that after the first screenings of the film in London, he was approached by several health care professionals who confirmed that this story only scratches the surface of the treatment of the elderly in the UK. “All of the incidents in the movie are based on real-life stories, indeed I left a few out because it would have been even sadder than it is. I wanted to tell a factually accurate story which highlights my concern that the elderly are often treated as an age not as an individual.”
Time and time again, the Twains are separated, first by the administrators of the rest home, then by the court system. A 50-year-old charge against Philip surfaces (a misunderstanding gone badly wrong), and he’s now legally forced to stay away from his beloved wife. An emotional plea from Rosemary to allow the couple to be together results in each having to take a psychological and physical test to determine their fitness to live independently. While the entire 90-minute film is one to spur conversation about the treatment of the elderly in our society, but it’s the ending that will certainly create serious debate about the couple and how they take control of their own lives.
When asked what seniors and their children can learn from this, Duddridge says, “I’d love to see them band together and vote tactically on seniors’ issues. The minute any of us pass 65 we shouldn’t automatically trust anyone in authority. Often the elderly do not want to be any trouble. They should be trouble. When I’m in that age bracket I intend to keep 10% of any pension or savings I have to retain the service of the most Rottweiler attorney I can find to fight in my corner if needed. I would advise anyone over 65 to do the same.”
Photo credit: Mikael Levin
“Together” had its premiere on iTunes and Amazon Prime on February 18, 2019.
It was also an entry in the 8th Annual International Film Festival held in Manhattan from February 14 through 23, 2019.