There was a time, say 40 years ago, when the bathroom mirror and I were reasonable friends. These mornings the mirror is more like an adversary. What a way to start the day; surveying the sags and flab and indents.
Currently I am staying in Brisbane to support my son who is hospitalized with an insidious, creeping paralysis. The two shopping areas closest to his apartment are upmarket. Second only to restaurants in number, are beauty therapists, including plastic surgeons. A great variety of procedures are on offer - fills, cuts, sucks, stretches etc. A central aim of much of this body sculpting, (building or demolishing), is to minimise or even reverse the ravages of the passing years; for instance, my problem with the bathroom mirror. Is this the way of the future in the affluent west? As we are living longer, will nip and tuck become as expected and accepted as visits to the doctor and dentist are now? Maybe it has already happened, and I’ve been too sleepy to notice.
However, what I do always notice are children, especially children in trouble. Browsing through Netflicks, I came across a film about a street smart, orphaned young boy and another boy, the child of a prostitute who are rescued by an elderly day. Titled, ‘The Life Ahead’ the film is set in an Adriatic port city not too long ago. I had only read the Netflicks’ story line, not noticing the details of the cast. I was ready for a feel-good movie. However, this movie had in it more than I expected. Here is the kicker. I was totally unprepared for what I saw in the first minutes of the movie. The boy stealing an old lady’s shopping bag came as no surprise. My surprise came when the old lady starts talking in Italian about her loss. I thought I recognized her, but from when and where?
Then it hit me – that’s Sophia Loren. Couldn’t be - but it was! She wasn’t playing an old lady. She was the old lady. How old must she be? I now know that in 2020, when she made the movie, she was 86.
Along with millions of others, I remember her as the most glamorous woman in the world. She was the epitome of female beauty and glamour. She was the Italian Marilyn Munroe. Whenever she was in public, photographers flocked after her. Now she is an old lady. In the film she looks, dresses and speaks as an old lady, which is what she is. I wonder how she gets on with her bathroom mirror? I suspect she has some of the adjustments I referred to earlier. But nothing can change the fact she is now an old lady.
The Guardian (United Kingdom newspaper) has a very good interview with her. The heading for the article is a quote from Sophia, ‘The body changes. The mind does not.’
In the context of her life now, she was asked about feelings of insecurity or self-doubt. This was her reply. “Yes, well, maybe sometimes. But then I say to myself, Shut up, be strong. Just keep going and try.” Making this movie in her 86th year is an example of how she understands her reality and responds to it.
I remember an advertisement for a retirement complex which had as its heading, “Are you ready for a 20 year vacation?” The image beneath the heading was of a bronzed, fit looking couple, drinking wine by a pool. Actually, I think they were in the pool. I have long suspected that we can do more with our senior years than being on a vacation. What about continuing to do what you love and what you are good at? It seems to me, that could be more fun than sipping wine in a pool for twenty years.
I am grateful to Sophia for doing what she is good at. Through her art she will bring the humanity of a warm heart to the millions who will watch this film. She had no financial or personal need to take on this project. She did it because she could. I feel it is a gift from her heart. It gives the finger to our adversary in the bathroom mirror. It says, “so what, my body has changed! The important thing is, I am still me and I can still do some of the things I love. I can still contribute.
P.S. The movie was produced by her son, Edoardo Ponti. I wonder did he call her Mamma on set?