6 Ways To Change At Any Age

With The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel opening on Friday, March 6th, I thought I’d review what the first heartfelt and hopeful film tells us about change at any age. Change is hard. Especially if you’re discouraged by losses, disappointments, stale marriages, difficult parents, and unresolved fears. Yet, this film gives us some important pointers about what allows for change – whether you’re in your senior years or still young. Here are 6 I’ve found helpful in my work as a psychologist and psychoanalyst.

1. Let Go of Old Grievances: Muriel (Maggie Smith)

Carrying around grievances shuts you down. Isolates you. Can leave you without friends. Makes you lonelier than you already feel. For, Muriel, a new hip, and the gratitude of a young Indian girl seem to be what it takes to cut through her bitterness. Not without hurting the girl’s pride first, though. The girl’s hurt mirrors her own, softening her. And, Muriel opens up to kindness.

2. Face Fears: Graham (Tom Wilkinson)

Facing fears and doing something anyway, even if you think you’ll be rejected, is better than living with regrets. Childhood shame and guilt made Graham turn away from the only man (then boy) he’s ever loved. He meant to go back but was too afraid. Until he knows he’s going to die. That’s when he goes home to India to see if Manoj still loves him. Don’t wait as long as Graham to live your life openly.

3.  Find Your Independence: Evelyn (Judi Dench)

Being determined not to let setbacks get you down can be an important antidote to loss. That’s what Evelyn teaches us. She’s willing to try things she’s never tried before. Not only India. Getting a job; being on her own for the first time. She won’t be deterred by her son’s negativity – and she shows him he’s wrong. She doesn’t let fear or self-doubt get in her way.

4.  Leave a Bad Relationship: Douglas (Bill Nighy)

Relationships that tear you down are emotional killers. It can be hard to end them, though. And, anyway, it’s really not Douglas who gets up the courage to leave. Even though he wants to. His wife leaves him. He’s trapped in being Mr. Nice Guy. Staying in a bad situation is never a good idea. If you’re lucky enough to be freed, that’s a blessing. If you can’t leave, get help.

5.  Learn To Say No:  Sonny (Dev Patel)

Culture, tradition, and especially a mother’s control – all three have Sonny at a stalemate. He doesn’t feel free to choose the love he wants. Not until he sees he’s about to lose her. Then, he’s angry enough to stand up to his mom and say NO. Yes, that takes a lot of courage. But, everyone has a right to his (or her) own life. Don’t let anyone – even your parents – convince you differently.

6.  Never Give Up:  Norman (Ronald Pickup).

“I just want to feel young again – and needed as much as I need – for just one night.” Norman’s honest about his needs. He’s honest about his loneliness. Openness works. It’s never too late. As Sonny says: “Everything will be all right in the end, and if it’s not all right then it’s not the end.” Norman bears a lot of rejection, but keeps trying. He finds love for more than one night.

As Evelyn says in a voiceover:  The only failure is failure to try. That’s the lesson in the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. And they all try very hard at something new and different – in spite of their fears. At the end of The (first), Best Exotic Marigold Hotel each is freed from a particular kind of prison. Tune in for The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Let’s see how they’re faring.

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Dr. Sandra E. Cohen

I’m Dr. Sandra Cohen, a psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Beverly Hills, CA. I work with creatives in therapy, story/character development, and entertainment consulting. If you are a writer, actor, or director and want help with a character – or a chance to do some of your own personal work - call at 310.273.4827 or email me at to schedule a confidential discussion to explore working together.