As we approach the ‘twilight years’ of our life, it would be a comforting thought to know that we could spend our latter years being looked after by compassionate and considerate carers.
Allelujah is a story about one such place.
It is pre-pandemic, and the geriatric ward of the Bethlehem Hospital in Yorkshire, England, is struggling to pay its way. The local Government is threatening it with closure after 122 years of service to the community.
The young and idealistic Doctor Valentine ( Bally Gill ) also doubles as the story’s narrator. As he goes about his daily rounds, comforting his patients and attending to their emotional fears, it becomes apparent that he is more than just their doctor; he is their friend.
The pending closure of the ward conveniently coincides with the preparation of a concert and presentation of an award for Head Nurse Sister Gilpin ( Jennifer Saunders ), who has over the years shown a solid and compassionate devotion to all her patients.
Although, at times, she appears to have rigid and somewhat strange ideals about her duty of care, it becomes evident that she does care. Perhaps at times, she is a little too caring.
To raise awareness of the Hospital’s predicament and use the pending festivities as a goodwill story, the ‘Friends of the Beth’ invite a local TV crew to film the preparations and interview some staff and elderly patients.
This is where the story becomes emotionally moving as we are slowly given snippets of insight into the patient’s past and present lives as well as their fears and desires for their uncertain, potentially short future.
As expected, the patients are an oddball mixture of loveable, sarcastic, bluntly rude and sometimes charming characters.
There is Ambrose (Derek Jacobi), the retired school teacher who, beneath his prickly exterior, is a soft and gentle old man. Much to his disapproval, he is the constant target for some patients wanting desires.
Our heartstrings are gently tugged at when we are introduced to the sometimes bitter-sounding Joe ( David Bradley ) who is suffering from spontaneous bouts of Alzheimer’s disease.
Joe’s estranged son Colin (Russell Tovey), while attempting to reconnect with his father, also has the daunting task of reviewing the Hospital and evaluating if it should remain open.
Then there is the quiet and unassuming Mary (Judy Dench ), who, through the encouragement of Doctor Valentine, is brought out of her shell, leading her to discover a side of the hospital administration that surprises everyone.
Most of the movie is a delightful, heartwarming story filled with humour, a touch of drama and a healthy dose of plain silliness.
Throughout the story, Doc Valentine continually reassures us of his and the staff’s unwavering devotion to older people and the constant attempts to ensure that the latter years of their lives are spent with respect and dignity.
As the moment of the big presentation to Nurse Gilpin draws closer, the story begins to take an unexpected twist.
Although her love and consideration for the patients do not alter, the manner in which her professionalism is put into practice becomes shockingly questionable.
Unfortunately, the results of her actions are devastating for everyone.
This is a highly emotional roller coaster that raises some disturbing issues regarding how we as a society treat older people and how we should or could be treated when we are under the care of others.
If nothing else, it shines a bright light on the incredible and often thankless work our frontline and hospital staff do daily.
Click below to view the trailer