One doesn't often find reviews of films in the British Medical Journal, and certainly not of those from the Pixar/Disney stable. But geriatric consultant Prof Des O'Neil has written a fantastic review of this film which, he argues, represents "an extraordinary insight into the reality of ageing that can easily displace any number of worthy lectures on ageism".
"…although older people have figured in lead roles in increasing numbers of films over the past decade—About Schmidt and The Straight Story, for example—none has combined the hero role in quite the same way with the pains of ageing, bereavement, intergenerational solidarity, and grappling with stairlifts and quad canes", which allows the film to grapple with the ageism prevalent in wider society".
Unwittingly, no doubt, Pixar/Disney have spoken to most of the wider themes of ageing: "wisdom, altruism, negotiation, and that combination of “tough but frail” that increasingly characterises older people in the 21st century".
Given my own personal interest in things and 'special things' in later life, I was tickled to see this reference to the film's lead protagonist, Carl's house:
"The house and mementoes,as well as the plot, act as a vivid enactment of the Robert N Butler’s seminal “life course” theory of ageing, which sees ageing in later life as a time of review of one’s life course. Carl’s attachment to his house and mementoes is an effective rejoinder to adult children who are concerned that their parent is “not stimulated” by “looking at the four walls” at home: imbued with memories and palimpsests of relationships, this is a very rich environment indeed.
Again, I don't suppose Pixar read their gerontology beforehand but they got something right, at least in O'Neil's eyes.
As my young children get into cinema, and the idea of sitting still for long enough to take in a whole film I look forward to going to see this film. As O'Neil says in conclusion:
"…children seem to have an intuitive ability to see and value older people for what they are. It is we, the adults, who undergo a coarsening of our sensibility, perhaps born of a fear of disability and death that we took more calmly in our stride as children, who have the most to learn from this marvellous film".