Movie review: 70 is Just a Number (70 on vain numero)

(courtesy IMDb)

Age should not really be an impediment to doing anything in life.

Admittedly infirmity or limitations imposed by advancing years do play a part, but those unavoidable parts of the ageing process aside, if you’re young and vital enough to still carpe diem the hell out of things, including falling deeply and wondrously in love, then why not go for broke and see where life takes you?

It’s not quite that simple of course but still, with that kind of mindset, you can pretty surmount any challenges that come your way? Or can you?

That’s the million-dollar question confronting popular singer Seija Kuula (Hannele Lauri) in 70 is Just a Number (70 on vain numero), who finds herself nearing the age of 70 and wondering if she’s still got what it takes to set the public’s musical imagination on fire.

She most definitely still loves doing what she does, but she is increasingly confronted by the fact that she, and her fans, are getting older – it’s underscored both humorously and poignantly when a young-ish looking man approaches her for a pic; she’s buoyed until she realises it’s with his mother in a wheelchair who marvels that she and her pop idol are the same age – and that perhaps life is done with her when it comes to staying relevant.

She’s working hard to keep the day she has to call it quits at bay but the fact remains that she isn’t getting any younger and that the struggle to stay on the musical cusp, or at least her ageing part of it, is becoming ever more of a slog.

Still, she’s down just yet and she arrives at her record company’s offices ready to listen to all the new and exciting songs for her next album, hopeful that the songwriters there to pitch to her will represent the vital singer she is and not the has-been she fears may be looming just around the corner.

No such luck, alas.

Almost to a songwriting team, they pitch Seija songs about twilight years and getting older, leaving her appalled that the world is apparently set on consigning her to the twilight years bin, a sinking feeling of fairly epic proportions that is only arrested when handsome recently-divorced and healthily middle-aged Lauri (Mikko Nousiainen) offers up some music that sets the artist’s lyrical juices running, leading to her penning vitally alive words to his touchingly beautiful melody.

It’s a match made in heaven, not simply creatively but romantically with the two musical souls finding in the other the person that completes them.

70 is Just a Number (70 on vain numero) is all for all intents and purposes a romantic comedy with some rumination on ageing and relevancy thrown in for good measure, a movie that attempts to be both funny and touching as it examines whether it’s possible to re-invent yourself as a creative being and as a woman at an age when most people are expected to meekly shuffle off to a nursing home (which is where, rather ironically, Lauri’s mum, Mirre, played by Marja Packalén, who has a surprising connection to Sieja, is currently, rather happily, ensconced).

While Seija wrestles mightily with growing older in the public gaze, Mirre is dancing up a storm in the home’s recreation hall, at ease with where she is in life and who she is.

Well, she is completely at ease and happy until she realises her son is dating someone her age and that’s where the fun part of the film really kicks off, although its soon muted by more weighty concerns, most courtesy of Seija who, in an attempt to deal with Mirre’s concerns about the gaping age difference between Seija and Lauri, cooks up a scheme with her sweetly devoted assistant, Shanella (Misa Pallander) to set things right.

It’s a promising mix of the poignant and the comedic that should have produced a movie with a farcically substantial bent, but while there are some entertaining and thoughtfully provoking elements to 70 is Just a Number (70 on vain numero), it never really takes off, eventually fizzling into a final act that, while still eminently watchable, never really delivers on its premise.

It’s by no mans a disaster and there are some quite touching scenes in amidst the somewhat somewhat shambling narrative which does have a reasonably clear sense of forward momentum while still feeling like the writers are entirely sure whether they’re aiming for an ending that is wacky, heartfelt or a mix of both.

They do land somewhere on the last option but there’s no real earned sense that it’s a worthwhile end to proceedings.

Seija is a bit of a primadonna and that is the explanation for some of her more over the top moments, and there is a genuine sense of fun to the way in some key plot points are handled, but there’s also no real sense that Seija and Lauri belong together.

We’re meant to think they are and as a riposte to the idea that only older men can have younger partners, 70 is Just a Number (70 on vain numero) really takes on a life of its own, with Seija unapologetic to Mirre that she’s with a considerably younger man (even if she is obsessed with the media not finding out about the nascent relationship).

70 is Just a Number (70 on vain numero) does have some genuinely funny and achingly sweet moments that make it a more than worthwhile watch, but it’s somewhat messily put together, unable to work out exactly what kind of movie it wants to be, with the serious and more comedic elements not always sitting in pleasing balance with each other, meaning that while the premise is somewhat executed upon, it doesn’t fully succeed in exploring what it’s like to get old in a world devoted to the cult of the young.

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