The Company of Strangers (1990)

The Company of Strangers (1990)

A stunning, heartwarming docu-fiction tribute to the resilience and openness of its ever-youthful cast

The Very Best

9.0

Movie

Canada
English
Adventure, Drama
1990
CYNTHIA SCOTT
Alice Diabo, Beth Webber, Catherine Roche
101 min

TLDR

If we can age and still remain as full of life as these women, we’ll be delighted.

What it's about

When their tour bus breaks down in the middle of nowhere, seven elderly women and their driver use the long wait for rescue as time to bond and reflect.

The take

It’s hard to overstate just how lovely — and quietly radical — this largely improvised Canadian docudrama is. The scenario (seven elderly women and their tour bus driver are stranded in the Canadian wilderness for a few days) is contrived, but the rich, lively conversations that feature are all drawn from the women’s real lives. As they hunker down and get on with the business of surviving with meager food — something they manage to do largely thanks to the bushcraft skills of Mohawk elder Alice — the strangers reflect on their long lives and open up to each other about their lingering fears and still-burning hopes.

They’re a diverse bunch — featuring Cockney transplants, lesbian pioneers, and nuns — and the film’s brief cuts to real photos from the women’s earlier years both underscore the rawness of what they’re saying and serve as testaments to the rich fullness of their lives. The Company of Strangers grants these women the kind of serious consideration and space that they’re denied in so many public spaces, but it never feels like a strained exercise in redressing that imbalance. Instead, this is simply a gentle, gorgeous, and profoundly moving portrait of women who aren’t done living yet.

What stands out

There are so many standout scenes here, but words can’t really do them justice — you have to experience them for yourself. What can be described is the sense of reinvigoration the experience seems to have on the women: fictional though the setup may be, there’s no faking the moments of genuine connection, vulnerability, and sparkling youthfulness that emerge from the filming. The moments when they belly dance, discuss the possibility of falling in love again, and splash each other in the lake feel like a magical turning back of the clock, a quality that melds poignantly with their profound reflections on aging and their enduring wishes. As wonderful as cinema gets.

Comments

I believe the title of the movie was changed to “Strangers in Good Company” for its theatrical release.

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