Having written more than 70 plays in his career, internationally acclaimed playwright Israel Horovitz is transferring his narrative skills to the cinematic screen, marking his directorial debut of a full-length feature film, reuniting Keeping Mum stars Maggie Smith and Kirsten Scott Thomas.
My Old Lady tells the story of Mathias (Kevin Kline), a broke and depressed man who travels to Paris to sell off an apartment he has inherited from his estranged father. Upon his arrival, he discovers that not only is there an old woman, Mathilde (Smith), and her daughter Chloe (Scott Thomas) living there, but he cannot legally sell the apartment while Mathilde is still alive. As he endeavours to evict the pair and sell the apartment, the three discover that they share more than a coveted property in Paris.
Prior to becoming a film, My Old Lady started out as a play, which premiered in New York in 2002 before touring around Europe. The film premiered at this year’s Toronto Film Festival and it is to be featured in the ‘Journey’ section of the upcoming BFI London Film Festival.
The story takes a while to becoming mildly interesting as it initially deals with Mathias’ almost amusing frustrations with Mathilde and Chloe only for it take a dark turn quite quickly. Even though the shift in tone provides an interesting twist, it feels forced, like it is needed to inject drama into the feature. This inflicts an unavoidable sense of bitter sentimentality that is unwelcome.
However, Horovitz effectively manages to transfer his story from the confined space of a theatre stage to modern-day Paris, while providing a visual bonus in the form of the city’s cosmopolitan backdrop.
The story makes the most of the three leading actors, who portray their roles with sensitivity despite their characters’s respective pasts. Kline’s embittered Mathias shares great chemistry with Smith and Scott Thomas, either as a comedic foil or an outlet for the years of resentment against his father. Smith is sensitive and watchable, whose conflicted Mathilde is essentially driven by a past that shines a different perspective on Mathias’ troubled past.
My Old Lady is a mature piece of filmmaking but while its pace lets it down, Kline, Smith and Scott Thomas do not disappoint.
My Old Lady is out in UK cinemas on 21st November 2014.
Director: Israel Horovitz
Writers: Israel Horovitz (screenplay), Israel Horovitz (play)
Stars: Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith
Runtime: 107 min
Country: UK, France, USA