A more than middle-aged man (Kevin Kline) packs his meager belongings and takes off for France in hopes of selling the apartment he inherited from his late estranged father. Soon after arrival he realizes that sale is far from as easy as he thought. The feisty thorn thwarting his mission? An old woman (Maggie Smith) and her daughter (Kristin Scott Thomas) who reside in the apartment. It’s a quagmire called viager. In English layman’s terms, not only does he not get the apartment to do what he wills until after the elderly inhabitant dies, he must pay her rent until then. As Kline’s character struggles to profit off the property he learns about its inhabitants, about himself, and about what they have in common.
This marks the feature-film writer-director debut of playwright Israel Horovitz. So it’s not surprising that there’s a strong sense of the theatre to it. I can easily see it translate to stage – both in how it was shot and in the often delectable dialogue.
A well crafted, purposely paced plot unravels with wit and sincerity. My Old Lady is a mature film to be seen by those who can enjoy story and dialogue trumping tempo and action. Opens in select cities across Canada today (October 3, 2014).