My Old Lady (12A)



Comedy (2014)
107mins UK/Fr/US

Starring: Kristin Scott Thomas, Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith
Director: Israel Horovitz
Writer(s): Israel Horovitz
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Mathias Gold abandons New York in dire financial straits bound for the French capital, where he intends to sell the apartment he has just inherited from his estranged father. Wandering around the extremely desirable abode, Mathias is shocked to find an old lady called Mathilde Girard living in the apartment with her spiky daughter Chloe. It transpires that Mathias cannot sell the apartment until Mathilde dies because of an ancient property rule of "viager".

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LondonNet Film Review
My Old Lady (12A)

Draconian French property law forces a fifty-something bachelor to renovate his plans for a financially stable future in Israel Horovitz's entertaining character study. Adapted by the writer-director from his own stage play, My Old Lady brings together strangers from opposite sides of the world and thrusts them together in a des res Parisian apartment. The subsequent clash of personalities unlocks painful family secrets and salves deep wounds that have been festering for years. Savvy casting of Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith and Kristin Scott Thomas as the buyer and sellers in this comedy of manners is better than the film deserves...

My Old Lady. Copyright: Curzon Film World. All Rights Reserved. Caption: Kevin Kline as Mathias and Maggie Smith as Mathilde in My Old Lady, directed by Israeul Horovitz. Copyright: Curzon Film World. All Rights Reserved.The actors elevate a solid if unremarkable script, adding warmth, spikiness and roughly hewn charm to their hastily sketched characters as the plot engineers a couple of predictable twists. Smith is in her element, armed with a fine array of withering putdowns that would surely meet the approval of the Dowager Countess, her imperious matriarch in Downton Abbey. "Englishness is so obvious," she opines at one point. So are some of Horovitz's intentions. Mathias Gold (Kline) abandons New York in financial straits, bound for the French capital where he intends to sell an apartment he has just inherited from his estranged father. Wandering from room to room, Mathias is shocked to find a 92-year-old lady called Mathilde Girard (Smith) living in the apartment with her daughter Chloe (Scott Thomas).

It transpires that Mathias cannot sell the apartment until Mathilde, the sitting tenant, dies because of an ancient property rule of "viager", which also stipulates that he must pay her a monthly fee of 2,400 Euros. Unable to return to America, Mathias takes up residence in the apartment with the women and spies on Chloe and her current beau (Stephane De Groot). The penniless American secretly sells off some of the contents to raise the money for Mathilde's fees. "How did you get to 57 and 11 months and have so little to show for it?" she asks with genuine bewilderment. As Mathias delves into his father's past, he discovers deep personal ties to the Girards that alter his desire to see Mathilde six feet under.

My Old Lady doesn't stray too far from its stage origins, unfolding largely as static conversations within different rooms of the apartment. Kline and Thomas are an attractive pairing while Smith trots out her bon mots with expert comic timing and a twinkle in her eye. "Precision is the key to long life. Precision... and wine!" she trills. Horovitz keeps the tone brisk and light, even when skeletons are tumbling out of the family closet with alarming frequency.

- Sam Cannon

My Old Lady. Copyright: Curzon Film World. All Rights Reserved. Caption: Kevin Kline as Mathias and Maggie Smith as Mathilde in My Old Lady, directed by Israeul Horovitz. Copyright: Curzon Film World. All Rights Reserved.


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