‘Another Harvest Moon’ – A Hard Look at Aging

The prospect of a film starring no one under 60 years old comes up, you can see the Hollywood moguls jumping in their toy cars and hiding in the relative safety of their gated mansions.

It doesn’t matter that the cast is spearheaded by SAG Lifetime Achievement Award winner Ernest Borgnine or that he’s supported with his share of luminaries including Doris Roberts, Anne Meara (aka Ben Stiller’s mom), and Piper Laurie. If anything, the closest thing the movie has to sexy is Cybil Shepherd, who displays incredible bravery by leaving her makeup kit and sexy numbers at home and just relying on her acting.

If anything, to those who finance the latest teen vampire flop the concept of seeing a pack of old pros dominate a movie isn’t box office poison enough. “Another Harvest Moon” is about the disquieting limbo that faces our elders before they die.

For that alone, cineastes should be thankful this movie got made at all… even if it took two years for it to land a proper distribution deal.

“Another Harvest Moon” stars Borgnine as Frank, a World War II vet enduring the maladies of his age. When we first meet him, one arm is in a permanent sling from a stroke. He endures the indignities of incontinence. He hates taking insulin, and often gets in trouble for refusing to take his shots. He now is truly quietly fading away in a nursing home.

Luckily, he has two loving children living near him (Shepherd, Steven Schiff) and admiring grandson (Cameron Monaghan) who visit him daily, if only to force him to take care of himself. He also has friends in the form of Roberts, Meara and Laurie, each with their own way of putting up with their slow march into their final goodnights. The home even has sympathetic therapists and nurses. Frank has it a lot better than many others.

At the same time, it doesn’t take Borgnine and his gals to win us over. While life isn’t so great for this generation that has since been called the “Great Generation,” they are tough old customers. Most are still capable of a quick line about their tragicomic condition.

The true tragedy quietly creeps in as we watch Frank deteriorate before our eyes. We watch him go through another stroke and other maladies while he, friends and family must come to terms knowing this tough guy isn’t going to be around too much longer.

If the film stuck to this central theme alone, it would probably be hailed as a critical masterpiece. It’s only real flaw is trying to introduce one too many subplots. Quite frankly, there are about 1-2 too many here. If these subthemes were more thoroughly explored and detailed they probably would have added to the entire mix. As they stand, they actually take away from the main story.

At the same time, one has to sit back and admire Borgnine for still going strong even though he’s just turned 94. Between this role and his comic turn on the film “Red” this old timer shows he still has a lot of life left in him. Roberts and Meara also are incredibly charming as two old gals who confront their respective conditions (liver cancer, a broken hip respectively) with guts and humor. In anything, every member of the cast has a moment or more to shine, and they do so brightly.

In the meantime, “Another Harvest Moon” is the kind of film anyone who loves movies should find and see.