People who take their dog on the same walk or even go to the same park every day, can in some way relate to what goes on in 23 Walks. You see the friendly faces you see almost every day and your dogs get used to playing with each other. You talk about the little things and bond over your pet. Dave (Dave Johns – Fisherman’s Friends) and Fern (Alison Steadman – Gavin & Stacey) meet walking their dogs in a North London park, and over the course of twenty-three walks together romance begins to blossom.
Their first encounter didn’t exactly go as you’d suspect. Fern, visibly worried about her own dog’s safety, notices Dave’s much larger dog than hers and gets annoyed when she notices this man’s best friend is not on a leash. Dave, clearly impressed by Fern’s outspoken reaction, makes sure he brings a leash with him on his next walk. Both carefully connect and talk about life. While their walks become longer and the conversations get more intense, we discover Dave and Fern haven’t been completely honest with one another and their future together may be threatened by the secrets they have withheld.
Director Paul Morrison‘s (Little Ashes) first feature film in over ten years doesn’t really break new ground, but knows just which heartstrings to pull. What lacks in pacing, the film makes up with honest portrayals of both Dave and Fern. Johns, who’s started his acting career much later in life than most other actors in the business, brings a sort of seasoned look at life, just like his character in the film has. The events of Dave’s life are realistic and make for raw emotional moments, which make you re-think his actions and goodwill, while also raising conflicting feelings about the way he’s handling his big secret with Fern. He is the beating heart of the film, with Steadman doing a fine job, evolving Fern throughout the entire film. She’s able to turn a very sad flower into a blossoming new rose who opens up about her own struggles in life. Even though she doesn’t come across as convincing as Johns, because there isn’t much flesh on her character’s bones, Steadman benefits from the charismatic performance of her on screen walking partner.
23 Walks struggles a little bit in keeping that emotional buildup going to the very end, where it somehow fizzles into a somewhat cheesy conclusion. It’s wonderful to see a mature romantic dramedy. Instead of always showing the same old teenage romcoms that don’t explore any new topics, we get less beating around the bush, and just get to the point with two protagonists who know exactly what they want. They just need to realise it’s right in front of them. There is an audience for these type of harmless, realistic love stories, that will definitely appreciate what Morrison has created. Dogs, love and walks with their own set of hurdles.
Rialto Distribution will release 23 Walks in cinemas nationally 30 July. (Victoria to follow late August)
Review – ’23 Walks’
Reviewed online (screener provided by Rialto Distribution), July 23, 2020. Rating: M. Running time: 103 min.
PRODUCTION: A Rialto Distribution release of a Met Film Production. Producers: Stewart Le Marechal, Anna Mohr-Pietsch, Maggie Monteith. Executive producers: Daniel Flexer, Jonny Persey, Chris Reed.
CREW: Director/screenplay: Paul Morrison. Camera: David Katznelson. Editor: Bruce Green. Music: Gary Yershon.
WITH: Dave Johns, Alison Steadman, Oliver Powell, Natalie Simpson, Vivienne Soan, Rakhee Thakrar.