The Second Time Around is a very slow-moving, meandering film. But considering its subject–geriatric love in a nursing home–it’s probably purposely so. To a younger audience used to seeing love and sex happen at an immediate pace in film and on TV, this movie will seem very slow. However, if you’re willing to invest the time, this small-budget Canadian flick may be a rewarding pay off.
Written, directed and produced by Leon Marr, perhaps best known for his 1986 Genie Award-winning Dancing in the Dark, The Second Time Around visits the aging Canadian demographic as a source of inspiration. In the film, Katherine (Linda Thorson of the 1960s British TV series The Avengers), a widow; mother and grandmother, is knocked down a flight of stairs after attending an opera. Suffering from a fractured hip, Katherine receives a hip replacement and becomes wheelchair bound until rehab can get her on her feet again. Her daughter, Helen (Laura de Carteret), a workaholic with whom Katherine has been living, places Katherine into a retirement home, where Katherine’s insurance will cover living expenses and much-needed rehab. And although Helen is far too busy to visit Katherine frequently, art student Sarah (Alexis Harrison), Helen’s daughter and Katherine’s granddaughter, drops by more often, supplying Katherine with much-needed opera music.
Katherine is at first adamant that her stay at the retirement home is temporary, as she tells her new friends, including Charlie (Louis Del Grande), Betty (Jayne Eastwood), Joan (Jocelyne Zucco), Murray (the late Don Francks) and Marvin (Paul Soles, the voice of the 1960s Spider-Man), to whom she appears snobbish. But she develops a deep connection with Isaac (Stuart Margolin, of TV’s Rockford Files). A tailor by trade, Isaac, a Polish Jew, survived the Holocaust and immigrated to Canada, coming to the retirement home only after the death of his wife.
Watching the pair flirt and get to know each other is, depending on your perspective, either a painstaking, drawn-out process or a delightful glimpse of the slower pace of advanced age. It begins when Katherine gifts a pot of flowers given to her by Helen to Isaac, who’s sitting outside smoking a cigar. It carries on slowly, including trips to the mall with Sarah and long talks throughout the nursing home. One beautifully edited sequence, played to opera music, shows all the residents getting ready for their annual ball: they have showers, iron their clothes and make themselves look good. It’s interesting to see characters still taking pride in their appearance, despite the ravages of age.
Make no mistake: this is not a romance in which the couple rips each others’ clothes in a fit of passion and have steamy sex on the stairs. For various reasons, including fear and ill health, their eventual physical intimacy is slow, tame and careful.
It’s hard to say if The Second Time Around will find and audience. It’s a snail-paced story about the cautions of older age. And although Katherine and Isaac eventually throw caution to the wind at the end of the film, it takes a long time to get there. Audiences, however, may appreciate that despite the age of the two protagonists, at heart the film is still a romantic comedy that hits all the conventional plot points of the genre. It’s just unfortunate that this film will mostly likely go unnoticed.