Director: Israel Horovitz
Cast: Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith
Watch My Old Lady online in the UK: Netflix UK / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Curzon Home Cinema / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Man goes to France. Man has no money. Man is white and privileged. Man inherits apartment from rich father. Man discovers old woman owns the apartment until she dies. Man meets old woman’s daughter. Man learns life lessons from old woman and daughter.
The set-up for My Old Lady may sound hackneyed – and Israel Horovitz’s script is based on her own theatre play (another warning sign) – but, over the course of its swift 107 minutes, the movie emerges as a genuinely moving drama.
That mostly stems from the cast, who deliver subtle, nuanced performances. Kevin Kline shines as Mathias Gold; grumpy, rude, selfish and depressed. Kristin Scott Thomas is equally accomplished as Chloe, unimpressed by Mathias, loyal to her mum and also very depressed. And, of course, Maggie Smith is genuinely funny as the old lady who speaks her mind no matter what. (Let’s call her character Maggie Smith.)
After years of mediocre movies, it’s a pleasure to see Kline get a meaty character to play, but even more so to see him interact with Scott Thomas; together, the odd couple elevate the familiar angry-man-and-sweary-old-woman premise to a three-hander with surprising depth. Driven by a melancholic series of revelations from the stubborn tenant, My Old Lady becomes an intriguing study of generational ties and inherited guilt. How much of Mathias and Chloe’s sadness is their own fault? And how much should they console each other?
Horovitz’s script finds answers in everything from the bottom of a bottle to the intimate exchanges between our leads. The end result may occasionally be contrived, but tackles its subjects with enough humour and pathos to keep you more than entertained. Ignore the cliches and this is charming, mature stuff.
My Old Lady is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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