Diane Keaton recalled her mother's advice – "don't grow old" – as useless, however pertinent for Keaton's chosen career as an actress. It's a truism that interesting roles for older actresses are hard to come by. While signs of physical ageing are routinely played down in leading male actors, who regularly take roles as still vigorous and desirable characters (whether heroes or villains), the opposite applies to older actresses, if they are allowed to appear on screen at all.
Are things changing? It was Keaton herself who seemed to herald a shift when she played in the popular 2003 film about love in later life, Something's Gotta Give. At the time she expressed astonishment at being offered the role of romantic heroine, at 58, despite being partnered by Jack Nicholson, already a decade older. Yet, in Hollywood, the films that portray older women as desirable remain sparse, with Meryl Streep one of the precious few still allowed to play a romantic lead. Meanwhile, when not excluded, one of the notable ways that older actresses make it on to the screen is playing a character with dementia: Judi Dench in Iris (2001), Julie Christie in Away From Her (2006), Streep in The Iron Lady (2011), Emmanuelle Riva in Amour (2012).