‘Golden Years’ shows how to put the luster in retirement – The Global Tofay

‘Golden Years’ shows how to put the luster in retirement - The Global Tofay Global Today

“Golden Years” (“Die goldenen Jahre”) (2022 production, 2024 release). Cast: Esther Gemsch, Stefan Kurt, Ueli Jäggi, Gundi Ellert, Isabelle Barth, Martin Vischer, Therese Harder, André Jung, Elvira Plüss, Monica Budde, Daniel Frei, Franca-Marie Frei, Edmée Croset, Cinzia Morandi. Director: Barbara Kulcsar. Screenplay: Petra Biondina Volpe. Web site. Trailer.

Retirement is supposed to be one of those times of life that we eagerly look forward to. Having the free time to do what we want, when we want, is thought to be liberating and thoroughly enjoyable. But, for some, the transition from full-time working life to full-time leisurely living can be challenging, especially in the relationships of long-partnered couples. Each party may have different views about what lies ahead and what they want out of that time, conditions that can lead to stress, strain and unexpected problems – all of which likely weren’t envisioned beforehand. So how do we the hoped-for infuse luster in these golden years? That’s the challenge addressed in the charming Swiss comedy-drama, “Golden Years” (“Die goldenen Jahre”).

After 37 years of hard, dedicated work, Peter Waldvogel (Stefan Kurt) is getting ready to retire. His wife, Alice (Esther Gemsch), anxiously looks forward to the change, as she believes it will now give them more time to spend with one another, a chance to grow closer than they’ve been in a while, to fall in love all over again. She also hopes that they can meet new people, see new places and have new experiences together, an opportunity to explore life more fully.

Unfortunately, though, Peter doesn’t exactly share those sentiments. He doesn’t know what to do with himself. He’s accustomed to spending his days working, and now having all of this free time leaves him without direction – or the motivation to figure out what he wants for this part of his life. He spends most of his time stretched out on the couch, doing nothing, with most of the remainder playing chess with his good friend, Heinz (Ueli Jäggi).

Needless to say, Alice is less than thrilled with the way matters are playing out. She’s especially disappointed that Peter shows little enthusiasm for the retirement gift given to them by their children, Susanne (Isabelle Barth) and Julian (Martin Vischer) – a Mediterranean cruise with stops in Marseille and Barcelona. Peter even looks for ways to get out of going on the trip, a possibility for which Alice has no tolerance.

‘Golden Years’ shows how to put the luster in retirement - The Global Tofay Global Today
After 37 years of work, Peter Waldvogel (Stefan Kurt, second from right) celebrates his retirement with his wife, Alice (Esther Gemsch, second from left), his best friend, Heinz (Ueli Jäggi, right), and Heinz’s wife, Magalie ((Elvira Plüss, left), in the charming Swiss comedy-drama, “Golden Years” (“Die goldenen Jahre”). Photo courtesy of Music Box Pictures.

Concerned about the way her life is headed, Alice confides in her closest friend, Magalie (Elvira Plüss), Heinz’s wife. While on a hike together, however, Magalie falls ill and dies. But, before passing away, she tells Alice a long-held secret and asks her to collect a stack of telling documents from her nightstand, ideally before Heinz discovers them. As it turns out, the documents are letters sent from a French address over a number of years that spell out the details of this surprising revelation. This, of course, leads to a dilemma for Alice: Does she tell Heinz about his wife’s secret? What’s more, should she inform the writer of those letters about Magalie’s death?

Magalie’s passing also creates new issues for the couple. Heinz is, of course, devastated by this development and becomes more dependent on Peter and Alice for comfort, support and company. What’s more, Magalie’s death has a profound impact on Peter, prompting him to become obsessive about his own health and mortality. He finally gets up off the couch and devotes much of his time to exercising and changing his lifestyle, such as turning vegan and giving up alcohol. And, even though Alice appreciates his interest in his well-being, she sees some of these changes as being excessive, taking much of the fun out of the retirement they were supposed to be enjoying together. But, if all that weren’t bad enough, Peter invites Heinz to join them on the cruise. He tells Alice that he was merely trying to be polite, not expecting Heinz to accept the offer – but is stunned when he actually does. So what was supposed to be an intimate experience for the couple turns into an awkward time with a third wheel.

As the cruise unfolds, Alice spends much of her time by herself. In large part that’s because Peter heads to the ship’s gym frequently and hangs out with Heinz more than Alice. Peter also fails to notice the stylish new makeover that Alice undergoes, something that even Heinz recognizes. As a result, Alice now feels lonelier than ever. She compensates for this somewhat by unexpectedly befriending a fellow passenger, Michi (Gundi Ellert), another Swiss vacationer who’s on her own, having divorced her inattentive husband. The two women compare notes about their circumstances and find common ground. Michi reveals that she has let go of her past, offering valuable guidance to Alice and helping her have some of the fun that’s been noticeably lacking from her life, developments about which Peter is completely oblivious.

‘Golden Years’ shows how to put the luster in retirement - The Global Tofay Global Today
Uncertain of how to spend his ample free time, newly retired Peter Waldvogel (Stefan Kurt, right) spends much of his time playing chess with his best friend, Heinz (Ueli Jäggi, left), in director Barbara Kulcsar’s delightful comedy-drama, “Golden Years” (“Die goldenen Jahre”). Photo courtesy of Music Box Pictures.

By the time the ship arrives in Marseilles, Alice has had enough. She ditches Peter and Heinz and goes off on her own. She relishes the freedom of going exploring on her own. She also has a chance encounter with another retired couple, Ingrid (Therese Harder) and Josef (André Jung), a pair of free spirits who now spend their days following their impulses and living in the moment, tooling around Europe in their RV. Alice is inspired by their carefree example, increasing her desire to be her own person, especially now that she sees what her future with Peter will probably be like.

Rather than return to the cruise ship, Alice texts Peter, informing him that she needs a break from things for a while. She stays behind in France, drawing upon this opportunity for a diversion of her own – paying a visit to see Claude (Monica Budde), the person identified in Magalie’s letters. It turns out to be an experience that opens Alice’s eyes even wider to new possibilities for her future. And this raises an important new question: Can she go back to her old life at this point?

Meanwhile, Peter begins to realize what he could be on the verge of losing. He suffers a severe panic attack and decides to forego the remainder of the cruise, heading back to Zurich instead. But, once there, he finds himself alone. He seeks out the company of his daughter, which is hardly a viable solution in light of her own marital problems. He then invites Heinz to move in as his roommate, a stopgap measure to help him cope with his loneliness but a pale substitute compared to the companionship of Alice. However, considering how events are unfolding, will he be able to win her back?

What transpires from here proves to be even more surprising than what anyone expects, both on and off the screen. However, what’s most important to recognize is the honesty that goes into what occurs. If the ultimate goal is to restore the luster that belongs in one’s golden years, that kind of frankness is an essential element for making that outcome possible. But are Peter and Alice genuinely up to the task in light of the stakes involved? It’s a question that they – and many other similarly situated couples – must address if they ever hope to find happiness during this time of life.

‘Golden Years’ shows how to put the luster in retirement - The Global Tofay Global Today
When his wife suddenly dies, retiree Heinz (Ueli Jäggi, center) spends much of his time – perhaps a little too much – in the company of his best friends, newly retired Peter (Stefan Kurt, right) and Alice (Esther Gemsch, left), in the charming Swiss comedy-drama, “Golden Years” (“Die goldenen Jahre”), available for streaming online. Photo courtesy of Music Box Pictures.

Retirement is often one of life’s landmark moments, signaling a turning point in the course of events. Its significance should not be underestimated, because conditions usually change so much that what transpires afterward is frequently quite different from what preceded it. And exactly how events unfold is directly tied to our beliefs about the alteration in circumstances, because they shape the nature of that new existence, a product of the conscious creation process, the philosophy that makes this outcome possible. It’s unclear how many of us are aware of this effect and its impact, but, considering the magnitude of what emerges from this school of thought, we’d be wise to learn about it, how it shapes our lives and the role that our beliefs play in the process.

The ways in which we live our lives prior to a milestone event like retirement are based on routines that generally follow relatively set patterns that arise from our beliefs. This has a certain degree of predictability and expectation associated with it, and it affects all areas of our existence, from our careers to our leisure time pursuits to our interaction with loved ones and so on. For Peter, this involves going to his office each day and spending whatever free time he has with Alice, his children and his friends. For Alice, as a homemaker, her reality centers around domestic chores, social activities with friends, visits to Susanne and Julian, and enjoying whatever free time Peter can spare. But that pattern promises to change drastically once her husband retires.

Once Peter’s retirement becomes official, the couple has an opportunity to put a new routine into place. But there’s a major issue with that: While Alice has had the chance to envision what she would like that new pattern to be, Peter hasn’t given it much thought. Consequently, while Alice has been able to begin putting beliefs into place for shaping the nature of that new reality, Peter doesn’t have a clue how to proceed. In fact, he doesn’t really know what he wants out of this new phase of his life, both for himself and in his relationship with Alice. He’s lost, and his lack of vision is threatening to take him down a path without direction, one that Alice clearly doesn’t want. And it doesn’t take much to figure out what kind of a future that will hold for their marriage.

‘Golden Years’ shows how to put the luster in retirement - The Global Tofay Global Today
Relations between Peter Waldvogel (Stefan Kurt, left) and his wife, Alice (Esther Gemsch, right), become strained while on a Mediterranean cruise given to them as a retirement gift by their children, as seen in the romantic comedy-drama “Golden Years” (“Die goldenen Jahre”), available for streaming online. Photo courtesy of Music Box Pictures.

In large part, the failure to foresee what lies ahead comes down to a lack of planning, including envisioning what one wants out of that forthcoming time, and that’s primarily attributable to a failure of understanding the role, and drawing upon the power, of our beliefs. Peter clearly hasn’t done this. As for Alice, even though she may not fully grasp all of the particulars involved in how this works, at least she has determined what she generally wants out of life after retirement, such as seeing new places, meeting new people and having new experiences, none of which Peter has apparently contemplated. No wonder they’re not on the same page.

So what accounts for this difference between them? Perhaps it’s because Peter had so little free time in his working life that he never gave life after retirement a second thought. Alice, meanwhile, had more free time on her hands to contemplate possibilities, which may well account for her ability to picture what’s to come. In addition, she had more time to socialize with friends, another source of inspiration for this. And, of course, there were her many conversations with Magalie, discussions that often involved dialogues about dreams and aspirations. One such talk takes place at Peter’s retirement party, where Magalie speaks candidly, if a bit cryptically, about not having regrets for how we live our lives. It’s a statement that leaves a significant impact on Alice, both at that time and even more so later on when she learns of her friend’s long-held secret, one that obviously gave Magalie a great deal of fulfillment – not to mention no regrets. And, as Alice approaches her golden years, she wants the same result for herself, whether or not Peter joins her for that journey.

Fixing this requires calling upon our sense of personal power. Now, while the point of our personal power resides in the present, it can’t hurt to put in some effort on this in advance, especially when it comes to making plans for what occurs once we reach a milestone in our lives. It’s something that many of us fail to do, causing us to subsequently find ourselves lost when the big moment arrives and thereby keeping us from enjoying what that time of life has to offer. It can also create a potentially irreparable divide in the relationships we cherish greatly, such as our most heartfelt loving partnerships. Do we really want that to happen? If not, we had better take heed of the caution served up by this story.

‘Golden Years’ shows how to put the luster in retirement - The Global Tofay Global Today
Retirees Peter and Alice Waldvogel (Stefan Kurt, right, and Esther Gemsch, left) look out on an uncertain future together while on a Mediterranean cruise in director Barbara Kulcsar’s delightful romantic comedy-drama, “Golden Years” (“Die goldenen Jahre”), now available for streaming online. Photo courtesy of Music Box Pictures.

A key that’s often significant to satisfaction and fulfillment in retirement is finding a purpose for ourselves. Just because we’re no longer working at a full-time job doesn’t mean that we no longer have a drive to feel needed and useful. To that end, we may not put in as much effort or as many hours as when we were working full time, but that doesn’t mean loafing about as couch potatoes is an adequate substitute. Determining what to do in this regard means getting in touch with our value fulfillment, an understanding of what our destiny should be during this phase of our life. This requires us to ask ourselves what matters most, what allows us to be our best, truest selves for the betterment of ourselves and others. This could take the form of chartable pursuits or artistic endeavors or caring for loved ones, among many other possibilities. These undertakings can revitalize our lives, especially when conducted in the company of those we love or who share common interests. Such ventures can indeed add luster to our lives – and truly make these years golden. Perhaps it’s something Peter and Alice should seriously consider for themselves.

Many of us may legitimately wonder what retirement is supposed to be all about, and, as a new phase in our lives, such decisions shouldn’t be taken lightly. It offers us many options, but the choices we make with regard to them carry their share of challenges, too, as this delightful romantic comedy-drama so poignantly shows. Director Barbara Kulscar’s latest offering presents a refreshingly honest take on what can emerge in the golden years of life, a time of transformation but not necessarily one that emerges in the form that we might have pictured. Admittedly, some elements of this story are rather predictable, but then there are also numerous twists and turns that take it in unexpected directions. The film also would have benefitted from better audio quality (a growing problem with many releases these days) and a score that doesn’t sound like it was plucked from a 1980s Neil Simon movie. However, the performances of this film’s fine ensemble cast, its beautiful cinematography of European locales, and its delightful and sometimes-edgy humor make this release an enjoyable watch. “Golden Years” is available for streaming online.

Undoubtedly, we’d all like for our golden years to live up to their hoped-for potential, and, if we approach them realistically, they truly can, as long as we provide the necessary spit and polish to make that happen. It may take some adjustment, including envisioning what we want and making the effort to see those hopes and dreams realized. But the payoff can truly be everything we hope for. And that’s what a life’s work can ultimately yield, providing us with rewards beyond measure – and then some.

Copyright © 2024, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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