Puppy porn served with your popcorn, that’s 23 WALKS, a gentle and honest romantic ramble, a senior citizen romp com starring two gorgeous dogs, Tilly and Henry.
Tilly, a gentle giant German Shepherd rescue dog is owned by Dave, Henry, a diminutive silky terrier by Fern. Their first meeting doesn’t fare well for a blossoming friendship, but Dave doggedly perseveres and the two initial combatants become amiable walking companions.
Fern’s initial fear of the unleashed German Shepherd, Tilly, abates more quickly than her apprehension of Dave.
She has been hurt by men before and is shy of forming a new relationship with a specimen of that gender. There is also other emotional baggage.
Dave is not without his own baggage, the outwardly carefree bloke has daughter issues, vexed by a submerged moral dilemma.
He is also battling a brutal housing bureaucracy, where state welfare becomes an oxymoron, and the bureaucracy becomes a blunt instrument to bludgeon the vulnerable. Officials become officious, bureaucrats become bullies, decency and empathy asphyxiate in the toxic atmosphere of public servant – another oxymoron- rigidity and red tape.
Written and directed by Paul Morrison, 23 WALKS shows the shades of greying without taking cheap shots at the vagaries of becoming veteran or, in this case, vintage.
Dave Johns as Dave is honest, heartfelt and hilarious. It is one of the most powerful and truthful performances to grace the screen this year, on par with his memorable performance in I, Daniel Blake.
Alison Steadman is more than a match as the rubbed raw, not so gay divorcee, Fern, imbuing her with a vivacious fragility.
David Katznelson cinematography beautifully captures all the green and leafy of Hertfordshire, the commons and the woods inviting walk, talk and picnicking.
Gary Yershon, frequent musical collaborator with Mike Leigh, furnishes a delicate, unobtrusive score.
23 WALKS is twilight years rom com one might imagine Mike Leigh or Ken Loach making – warmheartedly human, a celebration of pet ownership, sweet without being cloying – it’s a stroll worth taking.