We first see them tired and slightly hunched over emerging from a thick, soft fog - eight elderly women who make up the cast of "Strangers in Good Company," the movie for the next Club Indigo at the Calumet Theatre.
Appearing this way, they're a mysterious band, arriving at a lovely pastoral scene beside a small lake, framed by a hilly Quebec landscape, with nothing but an abandoned house nearby.
Some remarkable films have been made in Hollywood about the elderly, but none can match the intimate way Canadian filmmakers see them. And one of the most touching, humorous and revealing of them, from award-winning Cynthia Scott, is unforgettable.
Made in 1991 with ladies off on a lark into the Canadian woodlands is another award winner for Scott's heartwarming approach.
When we first find the group emerging out of the mist they could be gypsies or wood sprites - a mysterious band coming from the invisible to - what?
They are, we learn, strangers on a sightseeing bus trip (possibly escaping from an elder home), stranded when their bus breaks down. They find refuge in the abandoned ramshackle house which one of them possibly recalls as hers from years ago; there they fend for themselves until help can be sought.
They make the best of a bad situation, taking time to know one another, sharing stories of their lives and talking about family, marriage, love, work, religion and death - frankly and poignantly.
There is Michelle, a friendly black nurse and bus driver who sings beautifully; Alice, a Mohawk Indian whose knowledge of nature benefits them all; Mary, an elegant sophisticate with a treasure trove of wisdom; Winnie, a former belly dancer and natural comedian.
The take-charge person is Catherine, a nun who is handy at mechanics and works on the bus, and when that doesn't succeed, travels 20 miles on arthritic ankles for help. Her buoyant optimism and faith are a contrast to Beth, a passive and demure woman who wears a wig. Constance is the oldest of the group with a gloomy depression that is gradually overcome by Catherine's beautiful approach to living. "What's it like to be a nun," one asks. Catherine replies, "Heavenly." The marvel of the group is Cissy, a survivor of a heart attack, who exudes a joie de vivre that becomes an inspiring jolt to the group's spirits.
Years may have wrinkled their skin, but their souls sparkle with surprising inner beauty. Director Scott's players (none of whom have ever acted before) give the movie an appealing naturalness, rarely found in commercial movies.Their comradeship turns what could have been a cloying nightmare into a pleasant kind of Outward Bound for the elderly as they make the best of an unfortunate situation.
The trip turns out to be a vacation tonic for them all. In a beautiful way they listen to birds, find a kind of bliss, forge friendships, share confidences, reveal family secrets, catch fish with panty-hose nets and joke with one another. "Did you hear the one about the two old ladies who went into the woods for a tramp?" one asks. "Well, he got away."
They form a bond that becomes a magical moment, weaving a tale of comradeship and courage that touches and changes lives - both theirs and ours.
This tender comedy can be seen on Friday the 21st at 7:15 p.m., with a Canadian buffet at 6 p.m. from Hancock's Kangas Caf. The cost for both is $18 and the movie alone is $5. Call the Calumet Theatre at least a day in advance for buffet seating at 337-2610.
Sponsors are Superior National Bank in Hancock, and the Bluffs Senior Community Independent and Assisted Living in Houghton.
Rush this weekend to see the final few days of the Gilbert & Sullivan musical "The Mikado," also at the Calumet Theatre. And don't miss the Saturday afternoon treat at Copper Harbor's Harbor Haus for a unique charity event.
Rotten Tomatoes averages: "Obama's America," C-; "Premium Rush," B