My Old Lady

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
My Old Lady Movie Poster Image
Buried family secrets emerge in emotional Paris-set drama.
  • PG-13
  • 2014
  • 107 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Long-buried family secrets have a way of eventually finding their way into the open. When they do, the results can be explosive but also positive.

Positive Role Models & Representations

None of the three main characters is an especially worthy role model. Not the aging woman who deceived her husband for their entire marriage, nor her daughter who grew up bitter and feeling unloved, and certainly not Mathias, who's thrice divorced and nearing 60, with no real achievements except for nursing a lifelong sense of resentment toward his father.

Violence

Some intense family arguments that reveal long-buried secrets.

Sex

Two characters kiss. They end up sleeping together, off screen, and briefly discuss the ramifications of becoming involved. One scene features a comical description of sex, read aloud in a language class by people who don't understand the terminology.

Language

A few scenes feature expletives, including "d--k," "bitch," and "s--t."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An elderly woman enjoys wine with her dinner every night. A recovering alcoholic falls off the wagon and ends up completely drunk and passed out on the banks of a river. He spends the next few days drinking heavily, becoming increasingly belligerent.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that My Old Lady revolves around very messy, long-hidden family secrets that finally are revealed, disrupting the lives of three people (none of whom is particularly admirable) who are all nursing old wounds. There are some intense arguments, and orecovering alcoholic falls off the wagon in a spectacularly unpleasant relapse. Profanity is very sparing, which makes the words ("d--k," "s--t") have an even stronger impact when they're heard. There's also some kissing, off-screen sex, and casual/social drinking.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLaurieM 1 February 7, 2015

Poor choices, poor outcomes

The concept sounds intriguing but it's really about adults who never got over the indifference their parents had for them and each other. Unapologetic pit... Continue reading

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What's the story?

Mathias (Kevin Kline) is a playwright who hasn't written anything worthwhile, has seen three marriages fail, and is left with little to his name save a beautiful, if rundown, apartment in a prime spot in Paris that he inherited from his father. When Mathias finally arrives in France to claim it, he discovers that it's not quite his: A 92-year-old tenant, Mathilde (Maggie Smith), still lives there, with her daughter, Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas), in an arrangement known as a viager. According to French real-estate law, Mathilde can stay there until she dies -- and she's a sprightly sort -- and Mathias is obligated to give her monthly payments to retain his right to the property. And as if this weren't complicated enough, Mathias discovers that he didn't know his father much at all.

Is it any good?

Playwright Israel Horovitz directs this cinematic version of his same-named stage play, and he elicits some of Kline's best work. The man truly isn't appreciated for the gift that he is, acting-wise, and here he has much to work with; Mathias is a broken man clinging to a life that he hopes turns out better than it has been. And his jousting partner is the Dame Maggie Smith, who never gives an inch, making for spectacular performances. 

But My Old Lady is limited by its structure. Complication after complication is unraveled, but there's not enough momentum as a story as rich as this needs. A plot twist in the third act places a budding romance in jeopardy, but the hindrances feel a little contrived. And, tonally, the film lurches this way and that, quirky and humorous one moment, dark and depressing the next. As a peek into a little-known French structure for property ownership, it's fascinating. As a study in human behavior, it's intriguing. But on the whole, it's only OK.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about My Old Lady's messages. What are audiences intended to take away from the film? Are the characters meant to be seen as role models?

  • What do you think about the relationship between Mathias and Chloe? How does it change through the course of the film, and does that seem like a natural progression?

  • How did Mathias' father treat Mathias when he was growing up? Why was he so cold to Mathias' mother? What impact did that have on both of them?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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