Elderly people falling in love is a feel-good cinematic cliche, but that they also have sex remains largely taboo — an oversight rectified by the feel-good if uneven comedy “Life Begins Today.” A celluloid invitation for the over-60 set to trade in bifocals for vibrators, pic has a lively, sympathetic script brought to bubbling life by fine perfs, agile scripting and a shot of social critique, making this helmer Laura Mana’s most commercial effort to date. Though nobody under the age of 30 need apply, offshore play is likely for an item that’s uplifting in more ways than one.
Olga (Rosa Maria Sarda) teaches a sex class for senior citizens. Among her students are cantankerous widow Juanita (Pilar Bardem), longing for death; Pepe (Luis Marco), obsessed with staying in shape and thinking of divorcing his wife, Rosa (Mariana Cordero); and Herminia (Sonsoles Benedicto), who lives with her daughter Nina (Maria Barranco).
Meanwhile, Julian (tubby, terrific Osvaldo Santoro) has flown in from Argentina to visit his son Alfredo (Eduardo Blanco) and family, though it soon becomes clear he’s planning a longer stay. Seeing Herminia in the street, he follows her to the sex class.
Elsewhere, Pepe’s affair with his secretary ends, plunging him further into crisis; Juanita starts to detect unusual stirrings as she’s examined by her doctor (Francesc Garrido); and geriatric hijinks ensue.
Perfs are understated and naturalistic from a cast with the combined experience of Methuselah. Shuttling easy between the lyrical and the comically crude, the busy script keeps things moving with a vigor wholly appropriate to a movie that’s selling vigor as a lifestyle choice.
Dialogue is sometimes quite funny, especially when the seniors are criticizing the political correctness of their offspring, who come in for some stinging satire in terms of their generation’s hypocritical attitudes to the old.
Pic is strongest when focusing on the oldsters. One particularly well-judged thread is the relationship between Julian and his grandson Kim (Fernando Tielve), who end up gratifying themselves, side by side: It’s a sign of the helmer’s skill that, far from being offensive, the scene is both comic and celebratory.
The script rarely fails to hit the comic G-spot, but some of the comedy is still based on the oddity of seeing the elderly having sex. Particularly patronizing — and cheap, given what the pic is capable of — are later scenes featuring Rosa in dominatrix gear. (Indeed, the entire Pepe-Rosa strand is likely to raise feminist eyebrows.)
Xavier Capellas’ attractive score, though overused, is well deployed in the wonderful final sequence.