Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Forever Young, Co-Starring Bernard Hill & Julian Glover

Every time somebody thinks they have developed a fountain of youth, it always turns out tragic, in a suitably ironic way. Seriously, haven’t they seen The Twilight Zone? Yet, they keep trying. In this case, Robyn Smith’s old ex-flame convinces her to take his new youth serum with him. However, she cannot cajole her faithful husband Oscar to take the plunge with her in Henk Pretorius’s Forever Young, which releases today on VOD.

Smith was once a literary star. Her sales have diminished, but she still outshines loyal old Oscar. Her latest autobiographical book has her pondering all her considerable life regrets, particularly never having a child with Oscar, who was always grade-A fatherhood material. Consequently, she is primed to accept when dodgy old Jim Petrak shows up offering her eternal youth, in the form of his miracle drug Novus.

Seeing Petrak transform himself from an elderly callow reprobate into a young callow reprobate convinces her. However, Petrak has a few fine print details. Smith and all other potential Novus users must pass a battery of health tests. Any form of cancer is disqualifying, because Novus would accelerate the growth of cancerous cells. Unfortunately, Oscar has just been diagnosed, but he hasn’t told his newly youthful wife yet, because he prefers to contemplate his mortality on his own for a while.

Forever Young had been whittled down to forty-some minutes, it could have been solid Twilight Zone-ish anthology episode, in the lowkey tradition of “Kick the Can.” Pretorius and co-screenwriters Jennifer Nicole Stang and Greg Blyth explore some of the intriguing aspects of immortality, especially asymmetric immortality. However, the big twist we can see coming from twenty blocks away.

Bernard Hill (whom everyone on planet Earth has seen on-screen, since he had smaller supporting roles in
Lord of the Rings and Titanic) is terrific as sensitive, soulful Oscar. He also forges consistently poignant chemistry with both Diana Quick, as the senior Smith, and Amy Tyger, as the Novus Smith.

However, Julian Glover (General Veers in
The Empire Strikes Back and the Bond villain in For Your Eyes Only) only gets a few minutes of screentime as old man Petrak. Plus, Stephanie Beacham (Dracula A.D. 1972) memorably plays Smith’s youth-coveting, face-lifting, jealous best friend, Jane Green, but Mark Jackson is so conspicuously sleazy as Novus Petrak, it is hard to take him seriously.

Forever Young
is smart, but slow and bloated. The intimacy of its story sometimes gets lost in pedestrian details. It has its merits, but it should have landed with more force. Not recommended with any great urgency, Forever Young releases today (11/14) on VOD and two weeks later on DVD.