by Alexa Dalby
Kevin Kline shines as Mathias (Jim) Gold, a boorish American in Paris, just short of his 57th birthday. He’s there to claim his inheritance from his father, a gold mine of a flat inhabited by 92-year-old Mathilde (a rounded characterisation by Maggie Smith), and her waspish middle-aged daughter Chloe (Kristen Scott Thomas). He’s penniless and hoping to sell the flat for millions. But he hasn’t bargained for the French property law which gives Mathilde the right to live there until she dies – plus, as the new owner, he’s responsible for paying her a monthly fee. Adapted by Israel Horovitz from his stage play, it is the first feature he has directed. Though opened out to show Paris at its most picturesque, it takes place mainly in the flat and the witty screenplay still has a rather stagey, though beautifully acted, feel. But what starts as almost a sitcom, as Mathilde humours Mathias in his demands and, as he has no money, lets him stay in her flat, goes much deeper. He uncovers family secrets that only he is unaware of. The emotional relationship between the three changes as all come to realisations about the mistakes of the past and the lasting effects that parents have on their children. It’s a high-quality, enjoyable, slightly old-fashioned production with a resolution that tugs at the heartstrings in an unexpected way.
My Old Lady is showing on Oct 10th & 14th at the 58th BFI London Film Festival