Returning from the Crusades an old man, Robin Hood finds his former hunting grounds a changed world. Marian has entered a nunnery, King Richard dead, and the chances for high adventure passed. But when the Sheriff Of Nottingham starts playing up, it is up the elderly Robin to gather his Merry Men once more to the cause.
An eloquent if slow “what if?’ scenario that posits an ageing Robin Hood returning to Sherwood Forest after 20 years at the Crusades. Naturally, it is a very changed world, as he is a very changed man, and Richard Lester, with sterling and mature performances from Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn, is making an intelligent point about what happens when you are no longer relevant. When the good fight has been won what would Robin Hood do with himself? A matter made especially confusing as, in his long absence, his legend has grown far so much than the reality.
Robin’s return also sends his fellow players in the dusty panoply of the past into something of a tizz. Marian (Hepburn) has joined a nunnery, smarting over Hood’s abandonment 20 years earlier, but is having trouble resisting the urge to change her habit. Robert Shaw’s Sheriff seems delighted that his old nemesis is back in town, and reinvigorates his dastardly dealings to stir something out of a game grown rusty with lack of use. There is an almost magnetic drift back into these prescribed roles, as if they depend on them. People are defined by their own stories — and the players in them. Are we only a product of our pasts?
It is also a film about ageing. Lester plays some obvious but funny tricks on the England’s most fabled of pastoral iconography. Early on, Lester has Little John (Nicol Williamson) and Robin embark on a rescue mission, scaling a castle wall that would have been nothing to the sprightly Robin of all those youthful songs, but now with grey beards and thin hair, it leaves them panting and doubled over. The atmosphere is one of melancholy as Lester penetrates through the gauze of fantasy to find the human heart, and softly finds it beating.
Sedate and contemplative character piece but low on thrills.