My Old Lady, film review: Sags under the weight of its characters’ mounting self-pity


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Israel Horovitz’s comedy-drama begins very promisingly.

An impoverished American in late middle age (Kevin Kline) turns up in Paris to take possession of the apartment his father has left him, but discovers that it has a sitting tenant, Mathilde (Maggie Smith). Under the laws of viager he has to pay her rent until she dies – and isn’t allowed to evict her. Initially, the performances from Kline, Smith and Kristin Scott Thomas (as Mathilde’s daughter) are sprightly and funny, and the dialogue barbed and witty. Then, as we learn more about the tormented family backgrounds, broken love affairs and suicide attempts of the protagonists, the film begins to sag under the weight of its characters’ mounting self-pity.