"For those looking for a gentle weekend watch that requires little thinking effort, Golden Years could work"

Let’s face it, we’ve all wondered what would happen if we suddenly landed a lot of money by shady means. Well, I’m sure most of us have. Golden Years tells the story of a retired couple who feel forced to take criminal action for cash, although not because they’ve always wanted their own tropical island or home gymnasium, but because their pension has evaporated due to a financial crash. Sounds a little close to the real headlines of the past decade, that’s because it is.

Directed by John Miller, the film was written seven years ago in collaboration with him, Jeremy Sheldon and, rather surprisingly, Nick Knowles - also known as the decade-long presenter of that gentle British telly institution, DIY SOS. They’ve spoken of how events at the time had influenced their writing, and since a lot of those issues are still depressingly present, this fairly old screenplay is still prescient in its driving concerns.

The story follows older couple Arthur (Bernard Hill) and Martha (Virginia McKenna), who have a peaceful life in the suburbs surrounded by a close group of friends. Common issues of getting older are getting to them however - Arthur’s father appears unhappy in a disreputable care home and Martha is anxious about the age gap between the couple. They reach the last straw when Arthur is told that their pension has vanished and soon he starts stealing money from the very banks that have disappointed him.

Kicking off with tough, relevant issues isn’t a problem if you take it up responsibly, but what is disappointing about Golden Years is that it then goes on to lurch between the dark moments and light comedy with perfectly timed regularity. As a result, the plot becomes utterly predictable after the first 15 minutes. In fact, it feels like a BBC TV movie that you would catch on a quiet Sunday afternoon. It’s kind of harmless, if a little undecided on how it handles the moral issues it’s happy to initially burden itself with.

The fabulous cast of BBC treasures does help a little however; the roll call including Sherlock alumni Una Stubbs and Philip Davies, and the always fun Simon Callow. Despite a slight resort to clichés in the dynamics of the married couples, the cast seem to have fun in their roles. It also gets a few great visual gags that emphasise just how hopeless the newbie bank robbers are.

In the end though, Golden Years doesn’t demonstrate anything to elevate it above any standard television movie. The cast are fun and the comedy can sometimes be sweet, but the writers’ decision to offset that with serious issues and sad moments means that both aspects of the film are somewhat undermined. The serious points are never seriously faced after the film’s beginning and the comedy never gets its full time to shine. For those looking for a gentle weekend watch that requires little thinking effort, Golden Years could work. Sadly, it just never reaches its potential.