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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Never Too Late is a dramedy about a group of four Vietnam War veterans/POWs who reunite for one final escape mission in an Australian retirement facility. James Cromwell and Jacki Weaver star in the movie, which both honors and pokes fun at aging. Expect occasional strong language, including "s--t," "bulls--t," "d--khead," "p---y," one "f--k," and more. Characters also talk about violence -- specifically, war violence, executions, torture, and more -- and there are scenes in which security officers force retirees back to their rooms or even involuntarily sedate them. Characters are having an affair; others hug and kiss. In one scene, a man and his adult son drink at a football game. Although there are a few heavy themes related to aging, illness, and regrets, the movie is ultimately hopeful in its depiction of friendship and love.
What's the story?
In NEVER TOO LATE, the leader of the "Chainbreakers" -- an elite international squad that fought in the Vietnam War -- gets his four-man crew back together. It turns out to be a fairly easy task, since they're all at the same veterans' retirement home in Australia. Squad leader Jack Bronson (James Cromwell) smuggles himself into the Hogan Hills Retirement Home for Returned Veterans hoping to find the one who got away 50 years earlier: Norma (Jacki Weaver), a former war nurse who has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. When she's taken to another facility for three months, Bronson is told he must involuntarily stay at Hogan Hills. He's also told that the rest of the Chainbreakers (who famously escaped from a Vietnamese POW camp after four years) are also there. Ever the strategist, Bronson brings the men together -- ladies' man Jeremiah Caine (Dennis Waterman), wheelchair-bound ex-con Wendell (Roy Billing), and former football star Angus (Jack Thompson), who's dealing with dementia. With the help of young teen Elliot (Zachary Wan), an administrator's son, the Chainbreakers plan one final great escape.
Is it any good?
The talented cast turns this somewhat predictable plot into a feel-good, if familiar, movie about tough old veterans reuniting for one last important mission. Director Mark Lamprell's ensemble dramedy centers on a foursome of tough men who command respect, even as their memories and bodies are beginning to fail them. The story has occasional heavy themes -- as stories about older protagonists, much less former prisoners of war, tend to -- but they're not nearly as dark as they could be, and there's a good bit of accompanying humor. As the group of grumpy vets with distinct personalities and skills comes together again, they also expectedly bring out the best and worst in one another.
One odd misstep is a second-act revelation about the retirement home's Asian Australian administrator's background. It's hard enough to believe that all of the British and Aussie Chainbreakers would have ended up in the same facility, but to add such a big twist about Lin (Renee Lim) is definitely eyebrow-raising and unnecessary. It would have been preferable to have more interactions between young Elliot and the veterans. Because Bronson and Norma are separated for most of the movie, their romance is conducted mostly through phone calls and letters, but it's still quite sweet. There's a considerable Notebook vibe to the situation (no flashbacks, though) and, by the movie's crowd-pleasing end, viewers will be applauding for second-chance love.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the main characters' age/stage of life is handled in Never Too Late. Why is it uncommon for mainstream Hollywood movies to have over-70 leading characters?
Discuss the implied violence in the movie. How did the characters' war experiences impact them?
What is the movie's message about love and age? Can you think of other romantic movies that feature older adults?
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