When Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline), a hapless New Yorker, inherits an apartment in Paris from his estranged father, he is certain that his life has finally taken a turn for the best. The plan is to sell the apartment, gain a fortune, and start his life over somewhere anew, far away from a despondent past. With high hopes tucked in a single bag, along with his belongings, Mathias heads off to Paris ready to turn his life around. But his high spirits are soon crushed when he discovers that an old lady is already occupying the building. 92-year-old Mathilde Gerard (Maggie Smith) and her daughter Chloé (Kristin Scott Thomas) live in the apartment as a viager – a complex French system where Mathias, as owner, must pay a monthly fee to Mathilde Gerard, the resident, until she dies. Only then can Mathias properly inherit the apartment and sell it.
Having nowhere else to go, Mathias settles for an arrangement where he chooses to live with Mathilde and Chloé. Little does he know the emotional rollercoaster he has embarked in. During his stay, Mathias faces endless quarrels with Chloé over selling the apartment, winds up digging out the remains of a past he thought he’d left behind, and finds himself intertwined in Mathilde’s complex web of secrets.
Based on the play by Israel Horovitz, and framed by the lustrous architecture of la Manufacture, Paris, My Old Lady is a romantic drama adapted to the screen by Horovitz himself. Originally, the play consisted of the three main characters in one room, but that changed when the play was turned into film.
Horovitz says that “the images of Paris would add another huge dimension to the story,” a statement that goes without saying. From the alluring buildings to the snug street corners, Paris is indeed a city of images and life, deemed of admiration, and serves as a musical background to a movie about finding hope, love, and happiness.
The heartfelt quality of the film stirs the tender, shaking stuff in all of us. With a cast that is both hilarious and genuine, My Old Lady will tickle you, but also bring you to tears in its most delicate moments. The chaotic – yet quite enjoyable – atmosphere is also a constant element and gives the movie a flare of life in each frame and scene.
Academy and Tony Award winner Kevin Kline delivers a deliciously humorous and wholehearted performance in his role as Mathias Gold and is matched in talent by both Maggie Smith and Kristen Scott Thomas, both whom had previously played the role of mother and daughter on two occasions (Gosford Park in 2001 and Keeping Mum in 2005), which only gives richness to the relationship between the two actresses in their respective roles for this film.
It’s a movie about carrying on. Living on. It’s a movie where old age is the golden age for a reason. It’s never too late to grasp the joys in life, never too late to genuinely smile.
Light as white clouds, sweet as Paris, My Old Lady is a must see, and well worth anybody’s while.
My Old Lady is in theatres now.