Stan & Ollie – next Wednesday’s film – is a warm, affectionate delight

Stan & Ollie

Jon S Baird’s gentle, unassuming biopic of the most famous double act the world has ever seen,

is a warm, affectionate delight that touches on far broader issues than the pair’s final live tour.

Balancing humour and pathos, the film largely takes place in the UK, as Laurel and Hardy criss-cross the country, acting out routines from films they made a generation ago.  What could have been a tragic treading of the boards is turned – by a fine cast and strong writing – into a loving tribute to performances that, even now, seem timeless.

Steve Coogan and John C Reilly have been rightly applauded for their performances, producing (with the help of some nifty prosthetics) uncanny impressions of Stan and Ollie, but they are greatly helped along by Nina Arianda and Shirley Henderson as their long-suffering wives. A double act in their own right, they play characters that are unusually well drawn in Jeff Pope’s subtly convincing screenplay.

This is a story of two men who sometimes struggled to like each other, yet obviously loved each other. Fans of the duo will be pleased how respectfully the film handles their legacy, while newcomers to the story of their final years will be fascinated and moved in equal measure.

By David Vass