Film screening & discussion: Good Luck To You, Leo Grande
Ageing on screen after #MeToo
Why are older women, in all their complex sexual and social lives, so rarely depicted on our screens? Researchers at Swansea University are seeking views on the depiction of older women in the movies.
'Ageing on screen’ is a new research project from Dr Lisa Smithstead, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at Swansea University. The project explores the representation of ageing and older women on screen in the wake #MeToo and #TimesUp – movements which significantly changed the discourse around women and film culture from 2017 onwards.
The project hosted its first event, a free screening and discussion at the Taliesin of the 2022 comedy, Good Luck to you Leo Grande, staring Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack, in June.
The movie tells the story of retired widow Nancy Stokes who hires a young sex worker called Leo Grande in the hope of enjoying a night of pleasure and self-discovery after an unfulfilling married life. This film raises big questions about desire, power and ageing. The ‘Ageing on Screen’ researchers want to hear viewers’ responses and views on ageing, sexuality, women’s lives and the roles older women get to play in the movies.
Dr Lisa Smithstead, leading on the ‘Ageing on Screen’ research project said:
“#MeToo put issues of gender, power and agency on the map, and ageing and older stars were at the movement’s centre.
This feels like a crucial moment to take stock of what has and hasn’t changed since #MeToo exploded as a viral movement in 2017. Are there more roles for older women? Are older women allowed to take leading roles? Are their storylines any more dynamic or exciting than in earlier periods?
“My research thus far suggests that this is a really exciting time for older women in cinema. We are seeing major stars taking on diverse and interesting roles into their late 40s and 50s whereas in earlier decades their opportunities would have been quite limited. We have begun generating new data about where older women appear – in what genres, what character types – we can start to paint a clearer picture of how older women’s experiences are being represented in the films we watch.”
‘Ageing on Screen’ seeks to capture how these movements have affected the way older women are represented in cinema by examining the top 100 grossing films at the UK box office every year since 2017.
It aims to illuminate where, and in what forms, ageing and older female characters appear in the movies that have been most visible on UK cinema screens across the last seven years. The project takes an intersectional approach, considering how age intersects with ethnicity, nationality and class as well as gender in the representation of older women on contemporary UK cinema screens.
The goal of the project is to create new resources which will help paint a clearer picture of older and ageing women in contemporary popular film culture. We plan to discuss these issues with audiences in Wales and the UK about what a better and brighter future for ageing and older women on screen might look like.
The screening Good Luck To You, Leo Grande (taliesinartscentre.co.uk) was introduced by Dr. Lisa Smithstead.
Viewers then attended a post screening discussion. They were able to share their thoughts and ideas about older women on screen, and chat with Kelly Barr from Age Cymru.
They also interacted with exhibition materials from the project highlighting some of the key issues facing ageing and older women in contemporary popular cinema. More information is now available on the project website Ageing on screen after #MeToo (wordpress.com)
You can also read Dr Lisa Smithstead’s previous research into cinema and feminism
Dr Lisa Smithstead - Swansea University including her recent article on Kate Winslet: ‘There’s more to middle age than a saggy belly’: gender, ageing, and agency in Kate Winslet’s post Weinstein star image (tandfonline.com)