Germany | Belgium | USA | France 2013
Starts August 22, 2013
Directed by: Sandra Nettelbeck
Writing credits: Sandra Nettelbeck, Françoise Dorner novel
Cast: Gillian Anderson, Michael Caine, Clémence Poésy, Jane Alexander, Anne Alvaro, Justin Kirk
Length: 116 minutes
Matthew Morgan’s (Caine) existence evolved around his wife (Alexander), whom we become acquainted with, through flashbacks. Since Joan’s death—three years, two months and eleven days earlier, but who’s counting—he lives in oblivion in Paris, withering daily. Weekly lunches with Colette (Alvaro) behoove her English, and, give him a place to be. Then, a young woman on a bus helps him. He learns that Pauline (Poésy) is a teacher—cha-cha; she learns he is a retired Princeton professor of philosophy, and that his French is paltry—he relied on Joan’s French. Pauline invites Matthew to the dance school, and their friendship flourishes. His gait becomes jaunty, he throws his apartment windows open, and shaves his beard.
Until ‘reason’ steps in. Matthew lands in a hospital and his children descend, hell-bent on taking him back to the States. Then they meet Pauline, “the bimbo”; Matthew explicitly tells them to back off. Subsequently, self-centered Karen (Anderson gives a terrific, too brief, performance) returns to Chicago. Whereas Miles (Kirk), whose temperament echoes his father’s, stays on intent to sort out his life, as well as the relationship with his father.
Sandra Nettlebeck’s screenplay has perplexing discrepancies. As director, by not emphasizing certain points sufficiently, the ending—I have not read the book—seems rushed, and non-plausible. Intrinsic then in telling this intricate story are Michael Bertl’s cinematography, and Christoph Strothjohann’s editing. Michael Caine’s superb performance commands, and carries the film, albeit Poésy’s performance is stalwart. Still, watching this improbable relationship blossom, amid the nuances of life’s complexities and family dynamics, takes us on a bittersweet journey. ( )