My Old Lady (Israel Horovitz, 2014)
When the opening titles revealed that My Old Lady was directed by its playwright, I had concerns. To my dismay, these were justified. It was so, so, clear that this was meant to be a play and not a film. While long conversations work on stage, on film they can grow tedious, and that was indeed the case here.
Mathias (Kevin Kline) arrives in Paris where he has inherited an apartment from his recently deceased father. However, once there he finds ninety-two year old Mathilde (Maggie Smith) living there with her daughter Chloé (Kristen Scott Thomas). It transpires that the apartment is a ‘viager’ – a peculiar quirk of French real estate whereby the original seller inhabits the apartment until death, and is paid a monthly fee by the owner. Although this is actually a real thing, it seemed ridiculous and non-sensical.
Though presented in the trailer as a light comedy with Maggie Smith in fine form as the hilarious old bag and Kevin Kline as the American who prays for her demise, My Old Lady turned out to be significantly less light-hearted than anticipated. It gets downright depressing in spots and I actually delved into my bag to find out the time because I wanted it to hurry up and finish.
There are a couple of reunions in the cast – Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas reunite after Life as a House, while Maggie Smith and Kristin Scott Thomas of Keeping Mum once again play mother and daughter. All three are impressive, but it was just so dull. Older audience members who have lived with secrets may be more invested in the narrative, but for a Brit-Yank-Frank assortment, I expected more. There are hints of that Parisian beauty but so much of the film is spent cooped up inside a house. Horovitz should stick to the stage.