The Movie Waffler Interview - FOREVER YOUNG Director Henk Pretorius | The Movie Waffler

Interview - FOREVER YOUNG Director Henk Pretorius

Interview - FOREVER YOUNG Director Henk Pretorius
The filmmaker discusses his new sci-fi drama.

Interview by Benjamin Poole

Written and directed  by Henk Pretorious, Forever Young follows 70-year-old Robyn, who is given the chance to reverse the aging process thanks to a secret trial drug. She sees this as an opportunity to right the wrongs of her past, but her husband declines to join her because he has no regrets about the life they have shared. Robyn must decide if she'll take this journey alone and what the consequences will be if she does.

We spoke to Pretorius about his thought-provoking film.


Hello Henk and congratulations on the release of Forever Young. To start, a challenge. Could you summarise Forever Young in 20 words?!

An elderly woman takes an anti-aging cure able to confront past regrets, but grows distant from her unregretful, non-participating husband.

I had quite an emotional reaction to the film. Not to go into it all here, but recently I've come to realise that life is very short indeed and Forever Young's themes of aging and mortality have become intensely relatable to me. I wonder if you could talk a little about what the film suggests about ageing and our emergent fears about not being young?

I am sorry to hear about your showdown with mortality. 

The film deals with aging through three perspectives. 

Through Robyn's lens, it is about her wanting to fulfill her need to have a child, something she feels that she missed out on by being overly ambitious and never making time for family in her life. Life is incredibly short in this regard, yet there is a season for everything. However, when one misses that season, there is no clear way of getting that time back to re-indulge in it. People like to think that they do not have any regrets, but I think that we sometimes lie to ourselves about it. Like, I wanted to become a pro tennis player, but stopped at the age of 17. Looking back, I don't think I was good enough, but if I had more time and invested it into becoming better... Well, who knows? The reason why we tell ourselves that we don't have any regrets is that there is no point in living in the past because we can't get that time back. But what if we could cure the ageing process? Well, then we would be able to relive whatever season of life we feel that we missed out on. 

In Jane's case: she fears the decay of her body. I read a book about how age affects our bodies and it's really brutal. Everything from the fluid in our eyes, to our brains (on multiple levels) are affected. Jane's response to this is mostly egoic and motivated through her vanity but if de-aging was an option through the use of a formula, I would be first in line to purchase it. 

Through Oscar's perspective: He embraces the ageing process and loves Robyn in a selfless way. The love he has for her is what he leaves behind. That is his internal bit. By looking at life like this, one can overcome one's fear of ageing.

My subjective response notwithstanding, the ideas within Forever Young are universal. I think this is exemplified by the mosaic narrative wherein characters all seem to harbour their own specific dissatisfactions (with her plastic surgery, Anna with her addictions - both, in a way, antidotes to their realities), which complement and contrast Robyn's central story. How did you (along with story writers Jennifer Nicole Stang and Greg Blyth) balance these characters?

I always look at a screenplay as the exploration of one thematic. In this case it was exploring the idea of regret. I then created characters that had no regret, and characters that harboured regret. In Robyn's case, she regretted not having a child. I then thought it may be interesting to introduce a surrogate child to their household (Anna), and also a friend who has different regrets regarding her age (aka Jane). Lastly, I looked at a character that doesn't have any regrets (Oscar) and I started exploring how all these characters would react within the context of a de-ageing formula. This led me to the conflict and the balance of it all. 

Henk, the cast. The cast! I try not to read anything about a film until after I've seen/written about it so the joy of seeing Diana Quick, Julian Glover, Bernard Hill and Stephanie Beacham in succession was manifest. The ensemble cast is great across the board but the above are just iconic. I’d love to hear you elaborate on the experience of working with such accomplished actors…

It was an absolute joy to have the cast on set. I always find that the more iconic someone is, the closer they are to their true self. And I am grateful that all the cast members on Forever Young are truly great people. They are extremely professional, ask great questions, really care for me and the project and are in a way, very relaxed to be around. I am a South African living in Britain, and they all made this place feel a bit more like home to me. 

I'm always interested in how British independent films are produced and distributed. What challenges did you face as an independent movie?

That is maybe more a question for Llewelynn Greeff, who produced the film. But every film is a miracle. In the sense that there is so much that needs to go right for it to happen, that it really is a miracle when it finally happens. We have found North American distribution for the film after it won an award at Dances with Films in LA. We didn't have a distributor before we embarked on production and financed the film through a pool of incredible people and investors that share a similar long term vision to us.

Am I correct in spotting the South Bank, London? How did you manage to film there?!
We asked for permission to film there and were granted it through an application. The council in Wandsworth is super helpful and so is the Richmond borough's council. It really helps to film in a borough that is open to assisting one in the journey. You do pay, but it's reasonable. But you can film in most places in London if you don't have a tripod (put the camera down) and have a crew of five or less people. We have filmed like this on another two films we did. 

If you could programme Forever Young in a triple bill with two other movies, what films would they be? Where would Forever Young fall in the line-up and why?

It's a good question. 

There are three ways of looking at it, that I can think of now: 

One, like a touring musician that asks another band to open for it. However, you don't give the band full access to lighting equipment and stage magic. Making the audience hungrier for your performance (or film). In this scenario I would pick two mediocre films. So ours can be the better of the bunch. I won't do this, because I feel that it's like cheating in the exam, plus I am most definitely not going to critique someone else's work. 

Two, if I choose other similar films to Forever Young, the audience may feel too emotionally drained when watching it. Watching three dramas in a row may be quite a feat. In this scenario I would choose films that are quite opposite to Forever Young, and maybe really entertaining. In this scenario I would choose good films like The Perks of Being a Wallflower (artsy but in a quirky way) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (again, artsy but in a quirky way).  

Three. You can choose films that are similar to Forever Young in potential audience response, and they would be: HER and The Fault in Our Stars (although not totally alike). 

Thanks so much Henk! All the best with Forever Young!

Forever Young is in UK cinemas from January 26th. You can read our review here.