If you are in need of a feel-good pick-me-up, The Time of Their Lives might just be the movie you are after. But be warned: Roger Goldby’s new film strikes an odd balance between poignant and comical self discovery, between contrasting whimsical and sorrowful moments in the plot, between characters who beg to be loved and hated in equal measure. While this can be a little frustrating, these blemishes are well and truly compensated for by strong acting and Goldby’s characterisation, ultimately telling a simple, gripping story.

Screen legend Joan Collins plays ex-Hollywood actress Helen, who’s as self absorbed as she is desperate to escape her retirement home and gate-crash an old lover’s funeral in France. She enlists the help of Priscilla (Pauline Collins), a suppressed English housewife whom Helen meets by chance while on an oldie’s day out. Priscilla is soon whisked away to France by her newfound friend, where she meets a mysterious Italian hunk.

The Time of Their Lives could be seen as a close derivative of Pauline’s earlier work, but it’s just Pauline doing what Pauline does best. Any doubt of the film’s originality is also saved by Joan’s singular and fresh portrayal of a lonely soul on a journey of self acceptance. The authenticity lies in her ability to keep this journey from becoming soppy and cliched; both women succeed in depicting a frank, unembellished and relatable story. Their characters being insufferable at some stages along the way is all just part of the fun.

Because make no mistake: both of the women are indeed insufferable.

However, Helen’s constant rudeness, deceit, and narcissism probably take the cake; Priscilla’s humble nature and troubled past allow you to forgive her meekness. It’s this clash of polar opposites, though, that not only gives the film a comical side but makes it real.

While the quality of the acting does invest us in the characters, the writing and direction cause the two women to almost outstay their on-screen welcome. At times, the script and plot points jar you as they leave the characters acting without purpose or plausibility. Take, for example, when Helen is sleeping during a car ride and a lost Priscilla is so unassertive that she chooses to risk them winding up in the middle of nowhere instead of waking her friend. Or when the scripting fails to leave Priscilla with any emotional reaction to a certain event towards the end that, let’s just say, is painstakingly worthy of one.

Aside from this minor pitfall, though, our bewilderment just proves that by now we’re pretty attached to these two old ducks. They become complex, flawed and genuine characters to which we can relate…most of the time. This characterisation is a credit to writer and director Roger Goldby, as well as Pauline and Joan, and is the film’s saving grace.

The Time of Their Lives will be in cinemas nationally from 10 August, 2017.

Read our review of The Trip to Spain here.