Why are there so few movies about getting old? Maybe because we know how they have to end. It’s hard for moviegoers to suspend disbelief when they sense the Grim Reaper standing just off camera, and, besides, the commercial film industry has long recognized the profits to be had in sucking up to youth.
Yet the acclaim and awards for Michael Haneke’s “Amour” — a film that looks long and hard at a married couple’s final days — prove that the subject is not only worthy of attention but capable of deep and lasting insights. In the very small genre of geriatri-film, “Amour” is an anomaly: Most send their elderly characters out on voyages of reconnection with the past and feckless grown children. The results can be sentimentalized — see “On Golden Pond,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” or “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” all of which mix spiky performances with reassuring homilies — or they can be starkly penetrating. The best harbor few illusions about the loneliness and indignity of aging even as they acknowledge moments of grace recalled or grasped at before the final credits roll. And the very best insist on the resilient humanness of people we often look at without seeing. They remind us that the elderly aren’t us in a few years or decades but us right now.