My Old Lady – Movie Review
Addy Fong reviews the latest movie from writer/director Israel Horovitz, starring Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas and the wonderful Maggie Smith:
It’s always going to be an uncomfortable situation, travelling to a foreign country, letting yourself into a place you’ve inherited from your late father, and telling a person you barely know to remove themselves from the picture, to put it nicely.
Mathias (Kevin Kline) does exactly this when he travels from New York to France in order to claim the inheritance of a grand old apartment with the intension of selling it to pay off his long-overdue debts. That is until Mathias, who prefers to be called Jim, realises that he has inherited along with the property, an Old Lady (Maggie Smith) who doesn’t intend for death to come knocking anytime soon. Thus begins a waiting game, the conflict being a “Viager,” a French real estate arrangement which is pretty much a ‘till death do us part’ type situation. Talk about awkward.
My Old Lady successfully explores the idea of death and taxes and the burdens they bring (let’s be honest, no one likes either one unless you’re an accountant). Through the use of dark humour, witty dialogue, and the undeniable charm of Maggie Smith as Mathilde the Old Lady, this film succeeds in bringing forth the notion that the choices we make can affect us all.
The film is interweaved with concepts which explore the relationship between characters, their motivations and the burdens they bring. I commend the way writer Horovitz presents his audience with a carefully considered approach to the complexity of human nature and the conflict that surrounds it. Mathias inherits the burden of his father’s past actions, an affair with the Old Lady, which results in him witnessing the suicidal death of his mother.
As humans we seek comfort with one other amidst life’s conflict, choosing to bond over shared experiences. My Old Lady explores serious topics of adultery, alcoholism, suicide, and depression and the idea that one’s past actions has consequences for not only oneself but for one’s children.
The narrative had a comfortable pace to it and I found the characters to be believable, relatable and likeable. Personally, I wasn’t too sure about the relationship between Mathilde’s daughter Chloé (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Mathias who had been fighting over ownership of the estate throughout the film, to suddenly after spending the night together, fall in love the next day and forget about their conflict. I guess love solves everything including property disputes. For me this resolution felt like it was a bit forced and I would have preferred the characters to have fought more rather than exchange friendly banter which passed for an argument. No one got injured in this film except for a mounted boar, which was kind of disappointing.
Overall, My Old Lady was a picturesque delight to watch on screen and the setting made me feel like I was on the set of Downton Abbey (the charming Maggie Smith is at it again).
I found myself enjoying this film like a good wine. I think that My Old Lady will get better with age. So raise your glass to a long healthy life or drown your sorrows in a bottle or two.
Till death do us part.
Words by Addy Fong. My Old Lady is released on 13th November.