Pauline Collins in Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War (2002)

The Wrinkly Revolution

Part "Shirley Valentine", part social commentary on the treatment of the elderly and 100% fun, that is what "Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War" is. It manages to combine the elements of a woman who refuses to be bullied and dictated to anymore with her leading residents of a home for the elderly to rebel against the system which cares more for the bottom line than the residents. And in doing so we have humour as we have rebellious old age pensioners combined with a deeper message over the treatment of those who deserve respect rather than being hidden away and forgotten about. It's not the harmonious of storylines as at points it ends up preachy and lacks the wonderful acid tongued writing which made "Shirley Valentine" so much fun but with a daft title "Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War" is entertaining.

All her life Thelma Caldicot (Pauline Collins - From Time to Time) has been dictated to by the men in her life especially husband Henry (Terence Rigby) who treats her like a slave, well that is until he dies in a cricketing accident and at last Thelma is free from his shackles. Well free for a day till her son Derrick (Peter Capaldi - Local Hero) and his money grabbing wife Veronica (Anna Wilson-Jones) take over and force her out of her home, into an old people's home and trick her out of what is hers. But eventually Thelma has enough, she has enough of the home's bossy matron and manager, she has enough of being served cabbage every day and enough of being force fed medicines and so leads her new friends in the home on a revolt with surprising results.

Peter Capaldi and Anna Wilson-Jones in Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War (2002)

"Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War" starts off almost as if it was another "Shirley Valentine"; it has that feel as we meet Thelma, a down trodden housewife who is sick of her husband's demanding and vindictive ways. We hear her inner thoughts and enter her imagination as she dreams of shooting him when she picks up a banana. It doesn't have the acid tongue sharpness of "Shirley Valentine" or the flow but it feels similar especially when after a cricketing incident Thelma suddenly has freedom and for a brief moment tries to enjoy herself.

Now this leads to Thelma being dumped in a home for the elderly where bit by bit she sees what is really going on and eventually has enough, choosing to take control rather than being bossed and bullied by others. It still has that touch of the "Shirley Valentine" about it as events take a surprising personal turn for Thelma but we also get wider humour as we watch these elderly residents rebelling against the system. In truth "Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War" is all a bit obvious but also fun when we have the residents using their medication to dope matron or when they take over the kitchen to cook a fried feast rather than cabbage but it is all good fun.

Whilst "Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War" is about the fun of these residents being rebellious and also about Thelma making a stand it has another purpose. We also have a social commentary going on as the subject of respect and treatment of the elderly is raised and it makes a lot of good points about how people for some reason are frightened of the frail rather than caring. But at the same time it feels forced, rather than feeding the message more naturally throughout the movie we get one scene where Thelma gets to speak her mind and unfortunately it makes that scene feel preachy.

A big reason why "Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War" works so well is because of Pauline Collins as watching her turn from down trodden housewife to the leader of the wrinkly revolution is so much fun. Collins has a natural likeability about her but she also manages to deliver the joy of a woman breaking free from repression and like in "Shirley Valentine" you watch her come alive but in a different way. Collins also has a wonderful way of saying things which makes them funny and watching her with the likes of Frank Mills, Sheila Reid and her husband John Alderton is simply brilliant.

What this all boils down to is that "Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War" may not have the most appealing of titles but it is one of the most appealing of movies. It is like a version of "Shirley Valentine" but if Shirley was older and whilst it may not have the same sharpness it is almost as much fun.