LATE BLOOMERS – Review by Cate Marquis

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The indie film Late Bloomers is an odd couple dramedy starring Karen Gillan as a 28-year-old, Louise, who is stuck in a post-collegiate mode, denying her depression, and still not over being dumped by her long-term boyfriend a year ago, and Margaret Sophie Stein (aka Malgorzata Zajaczkowska in her native Poland) as Antonina, an angry, strong-willed older woman who speaks only Polish. The two women who form a wildly unlikely friendship after meeting in a hospital.

After Louise falls and breaks her hip in a drunken attempt to break into her ex-boyfriend’s new home, she finds herself among much older patients and sharing a hospital room with Antonina, When they meet, Antonina only glares at Louise and then becomes hostile enough that the nurses are forced to separate them. Yet when the both of them are discharged after rehab, Louise on crutches and Antonina with a walker, they find themselves sitting on the same bench waiting for a bus that never comes.

Louise impulsively offers to share a cab with Antonina, a gesture that eventually leads to Louise reluctantly agreeing to be her caregiver – because Louise needs the money and Antonina’s granddaughter needs the help. Of course, what starts out as a situation both Louise and Antonina hate, then morphs into an oddball friendship.

While the story is familiar, what makes this film an unexpected charmer are the performances, Karen Gillan’s quirky but honest performance as the lost Louise and Margaret Sophie Stein’s remarkably expressive performance as the defiant Antonina, in the early stages of dementia. Aided by delightful supporting cast, including a brief appearance by Kevin Nealon as Louise’s dad, screenwriter Anna Greenfield and director Lisa Steen craft the familiar into something that still works.

Along with the insightful performances, Late Bloomers evolves to a surprisingly funny, charming dramedy that touches on issues of loneliness, aging, compassion and facing life and its changes.

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Cate Marquis

Cate Marquis is a film critic and historian based in the St. Louis, Missouri area. Marquis reviews film for the St. Louis Jewish Light weekly newspaper and Playback: stl website, as well as other publications. The daughter of artist Paul Marquis, she was introduced to classic and silent films by her father, as well as art and theater. Besides reviewing films, she lectures on film history, particularly the silent film era, has served on the board of the Meramec Classic Film Festival and is a long-time collaborator with the St. Louis International Film Festival, serving on various juries.