A surprisingly honest film
by Martin Hafer
After you’ve seen a lot of movies, much of the time you start being able to figure out what’s going to happen long before it occurs. However, with My Old Lady, I found myself surprised many times, and that’s one of the biggest reasons I liked this film. My Old Lady opens with Mathias (Kevin Klein) arriving in Paris to see view his inheritance following his estranged father’s death. This turns out to be a gorgeous and very valuable residence.
But there is a serious problem, as by law he cannot force the renter to leave. This isn’t as bad as it sounds as Mathilde (Maggie Smith), is a very old lady. Things become more complicated as the film progresses because eventually he figures out that she was his father’s long-term lover and her daughter, Chloé (Kirsten Scott Thomas), could well be his half-sister, and he finds himself falling in love with her.
Now, this plot sounds a lot like it could be a comedy and it’s currently listed it as a comedy-drama. Well, I would disagree with that as I expected it to be more comedic, yet I failed to see the humor. It became unexpectedly rather dark, and unlike the old Jack Lemmon film Avante — which inexplicably romanticized marital infidelities — this one goes in the opposite direction.
Mathias isn’t suddenly captivated with Mathilde, nor is it all happiness and delight. Instead, he’s furious; furious that his father was so cold and neglectful. So when Mathilde says what a wonderful guy he was, Mathias unloads his years of pain and loneliness onto her. This doesn’t make for a pleasant theme, but it does make for an incredibly honest and brave film. In a time when we don’t get enough films about “real” people, My Old Lady is a breath of fresh air.
I strongly recommend you see this exceptional movie and I am really excited to see such strong work from only director Israel Horovitz’ second outing. It really is so well done. Moreover, as well as writing the screenplay, My Old Lady is based on Horovitz’ stageplay. I can’t wait to see what the director does next.