23 Walks is a film exploring love found in later life. The first couple of times that Dave (Dave Johns) and Fern (Alison Steadman) meet are not pleasant. Each out exercising their dogs in a North London park, Dave is reluctant to put his dog Tilly on a lead. Fern, scared for the safety of her tiny terrier, Henry, rouses on his negligent behaviour. Dave attempts to assure Fern that despite Tilly’s size, she’s just a big softie, but it falls on deaf ears.
After a few more meetings, the couple strike up an amiable conversation and have even ventured into one another’s home for a cuppa and board game. Some of their exchanges feel disjointed and rushed; it’s curious to wonder if scenes were improvised at all.
Along the road of their growing romance, they share details of their children, their work life, likes and dislikes. Dave helps Fern learn the conversational Spanish she’ll need when she goes to the Canary Islands for her daughter’s wedding. While, after a romantic dinner, Fern shows off her lithe moves from an early beginning as a dancer. What they don’t share is the parts of their lives which may result in the dismantling of their new friendship.
There are similarities between the character of Dave and that of John’s role of Daniel Blake in Ken Loach’s BAFTA-winning, I, Daniel Blake. That film seemed made for Johns, and he brings some of that disconnectedness to Dave, when he is forced to leave his family home in a pleasant suburb for the rundown tower blocks that crowd an inner-London skyline.
It’s a joy for dog lovers with Tilly, the beautiful German shepherd getting her ample 15 minutes of screen time. This, together with the lush greenness of a London park in summer and glistening-white cover in winter, gives it a pleasant feel. Don’t expect too much drama or surprises.
23 Walks is now screening at cinemas across Brisbane, Gold Coast, Logan and Toowoomba. Check your local guides for session times.
About 23 Walks
Running time: 103 minutes
Written and directed by Paul Morrison
Stars: Dave Johns, Alison Steadman, Natalie Simpson