Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War (2002)

51% – Critics
false% – Audience

Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War Storyline

Not so aged widow Thelma Caldicot is coerced into a rest home by her manipulative son and daughter-in-law after the death of her bullying husband. Apathy turns to anger and then action as the medication is discarded and Thelma discovers her mettle. She and her aged cohorts stage a rebellion but the result is something nobody envisaged.—Taita

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Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War Movie Reviews

A light-hearted romp with bite

The best comedy is often based on something real. This gives the audience something it can relate to and can provide a real bite to the comedy. The topic may not be funny, as is the case in this movie about how we can mistreat our elderly. But by finding the humour in the subject and poking fun at it, it makes the audience acknowledge the topic, even if only briefly.

The movie is the story of Mrs Caldicot and her fight against bullies for the right to be her own person. It is about the triumph of the ‘little woman’, that is in the sense of common ordinary folk, although it is also the sort of condescending description that her late unlamented husband may well have used to describe her.

The movie is, however, a caricature, with no shades of grey. The bad guys are so completely bad, the rest home is so horrible, and Mrs Caldicot wins so overwhelmingly. She even ends with a romantic interest. The film makers had evidently decided that as the movie had moved well away from reality, much like several of the inmates at the rest home, they felt no need for any restraint in devising a happy ending. The saddest thing about the film is that even though rest homes are not, I hope, as bad as portrayed, we often do not treat our elderly as well as we could, and in real life there is no happy ending.

However, the movie does not pretend to be anything but a light-hearted comedy. It was always amusing and at times extremely funny. Who would have thought that seeing one of the characters placing a newspaper over his fac e could have been so funny, and there was a delicious irony in the situation he had found himself in. Many of the people in the audience I shared the theatre with were on the mature side of life (alright, old) and they found the movie highly amusing, perhaps because it had a particular resonance for them. They also laughed at several jokes that went right over my head. Never mind, my time will come soon enough.

Shirley Valentine grows old

A daring title that may well put a lot of people off but this film is definitely worth a look.

The movie starts with strong overtones of ‘Shirley Valentine’ (though not as good) as an older Pauline Collins again plays the part of a much put upon not to say bullied wife and mother with no life of her own. There is a small undertone of rebellion even before the fateful day when her husband is laid out for duck or should I say for want of a duck.

Mrs Caldicot finds she does indeed have a mind of her own and starts a small rebellion in the twilight rest home where she has been parked by her son, baulking at the harsh regime and standover tactics of the management.

The story then moves on to an oft repeated scenario of old folks locked away, drugged to the eyeballs to keep them subdued as selfish offspring fulfil their own needs at the expense of the parent. Unfortunately it wont prick the conscience of those guilty of these deeds in real life for two reasons, they wouldn’t be able to see themselves up there and they probably wouldn’t watch or appreciate a movie of this calibre.

It was fun to see John Alderton up there as an antagonist of Pauline Collins which would have made for some interesting and fiery rehearsals at home I’m sure. Parts of the movie were a little far fetched but added to the overall fun of it. I hope the message got through to viewers about the quality of life for the older generation because there are going to be a lot more of them in the future with the improved health habits and mobility of most aging people. I certainly plan to be one! It may be distressing of course for those who don’t have any choice about the long term care of their aged relations, knowing that they may be experiencing these same degrading practices.

Overall a very pleasant 100 minutes of humour, pathos and reckoning and I shall be heartily recommending that my own aged in-laws go and see it.

Star rating: 3 out of 5

Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War didn’t reap the acclaim and appreciation it deserved upon its cinematic release, which is a shame because it is an enjoyable and comfortable comedy, but it also touches some raw nerves over the treatment of our senior citizens. Even though many audiences will not be able to identify with the aged protagonists, it doesn’t take very long before the viewer is rooting for the ‘Wrinkly Revolution’, as the oldies thumb their noses at the mean-spirited authorities.

The leader of the backlash is Thelma Caldicot – a downtrodden housewife who is prematurely dumped in a retirement home by her money-hungry son and daughter-in-law. ‘Twilight Years’ is run by an obsequious manager and an iron-fisted matron, whose goals are to keep the profits rolling in, and the patients doped up and stuffed full of boiled cabbage. Thelma rebels against this and rallies the rest home residents into a large-scale escape, which becomes national news.

There are some lovely character roles; in particular the totally over-the-top rest home management duo, who well deserve whatever just desserts befall them. But was it really necessary to give them a sex scene? Additionally, the love interest for Thelma seems a trifle contrived, and doesn’t add to the story at all. Where the narrative really works is when it questions our perceptions of what “old” and “past it” really mean, and that the uncomfortable and embarrassing truth is that it is easier to stuff elderly and confused people full of tranquilisers than it is to genuinely help them. Unfortunately, many of these moving scenes are marred by the overly sentimental score. The bouncy theme tune however is perfect for an occasionally outrageous, very funny, very British comedy that will leave the viewer with a pleasant and upbeat aftertaste.