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By Kate Smith
9th November 2014

Most of us forget that our parents had lives before we came along, and continue to have lives despite us. But what happens if those lives are full of damaging secrets?

‘My Old Lady’ tells a story of love and betrayal, infidelity and loyalty. New Yorker Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline, ‘Last Vegas’) inherits an apartment in Paris from his recently deceased father, Max. The apartment is worth millions, however, there’s a catch: 92-year-old Mathilde (Dame Maggie Smith, ‘Downton Abbey’) lives there, and has the right to do so until she dies. Mathilde’s daughter Chloe (Kristen Scott Thomas, ‘Easy Virtue’) shares the apartment. Mathias can sell the apartment, but any buyer must accept that it comes with a mandatory tenant. There’s only one buyer interested - a heartless developer who wants to turn the building into a hotel.


While Mathias considers what to do, he rents a spare room from Mathilde. Tensions arise between Mathias and Chloe as he considers selling to the developer, and while snooping through drawers in Mathilde’s home, Mathias discovers a lot more than he ever expected about his family’s connections to Mathilde’s.

Kline’s performance as the damaged and alcoholic Mathias is superb. Nearing his 60s, the character seems far too old to still be affected by his father’s secrets, but Kline brings a beautiful accessibility to Mathias’s turmoil. Smith seems to have made a career playing characters older than herself, and her turn here as the frail but determined Mathilde, full of secrets and rose-coloured memories, is true to Oscar-worthy form. Thomas suffers from a degree of typecasting, often playing headstrong independent women with elements of vulnerability. Until the film progresses, Chloe seems like nothing more than an antagonist for Mathias, however, her character is then beautifully filled out as she bears the same wounds that haunt Mathias, and makes mistakes all of her own. It’s no surprise that these two characters eventually find some common ground.

The dialogue is real, believable, and at times, painfully honest.

The film is made very well, with all the emphasis on the emotions and telling of the story. There’s nothing about the score or cinematography that distracts from the narrative. Paris provides a lovely backdrop, with the occasional landmark adding emphasis to the internal development of the characters.

Films like this often suffer from unrealistic dialogue – perfectly articulate and composed sentences delivered without a stutter in the midst of passionate arguments – real life isn’t like that. ‘My Old Lady’ however doesn’t require any suspension of disbelief. The dialogue is real, believable, and at times, painfully honest... As are the performances from the three leads – there’s something perfect in the realism of their emotions, particularly when they’re being absolutely awful to each other. All three deliver careful, delicate and sensitive performances.

‘My Old Lady’ is a quality work, well written and thought-provoking. However, if you’re looking for escapism, this isn’t the film for you. If you’re after a little emotional turmoil, superior performances and food for thought, ‘My Old Lady’ is well worth your time.

RELEASE DATE: 13/11/2014
RUN TIME: 1h 47m
CAST: Maggie Smith
Kevin Kline
Kristin Scott Thomas
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Israel Horowitz
PRODUCERS: David C. Barrot
David Atrakchi
SCORE: Mark Orton
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