Starring: Dave Johns, Alison Steadman, Graham Cole
Director: Paul Morrison
Running Time: 102 mins
23 Walks is a British film about a man and a woman in their sixties who meet while walking their dogs, and form a deep bond over the course of twenty-three walks together.
23 Walks is one of those films that tries hard to remain earnest, grounded and understated. With wonderful performances from Dave Johns and Alison Steadman, it manages that well, although struggles to capture the imagination during its opening stages with little interesting dramatic conflict.
Things begin to look up later on, when the film strays into more challenging and more touching territory, but it’s fair to say that 23 Walks just doesn’t have enough going for it during its first forty or so minutes.
To see Johns and Steadman bonding so organically is really lovely, but the progression of their relationship is a little too simplistic, with the screenplay leaving the first dramatic twist of fate a little too long.
What’s more is that the film’s dialogue isn’t quite there, with a style that seems more like an on-stage production than a movie. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but during the first act, I really felt like I was watching a story that would have been much better performed on a small stage.
Saying that, the film eventually brings in some dramatic conflict about halfway through, and it slowly begins to become a more interesting watch. Initially, the first twist is a little abrupt and even unconvincing, but the chain of events that it sets off is what makes 23 Walks ultimately such a touching watch.
From a perfectly pleasant if not simplistic story about love in later life, the film evolves into an engrossing perspective on coping with grief and loss, as well as the unavoidable and often deeply unfair challenges that real life can throw at you.
When the film moves focus from Steadman and Johns’ fledgling romance to a story that looks more intimately at Johns’ life, it really begins to hit home with more challenging drama. At times, things look very rosy, and at others they look very dark, but 23 Walks always keeps its understated style, which is definitely commendable.
Overall, I liked 23 Walks, even if it took a little too long to really get into its stride. A fluffy if not overly simplistic tale at first, the film eventually evolves into a gripping drama with something to say, complete by an impressive lead turn from Dave Johns alongside Alison Steadman.
The film isn’t perfect all the way through, with often imperfect dialogue and some less-than-convincing twists of fate, but it’s a touching and intimate drama for the most part, which is why I’m giving 23 Walks a 7.5.