C’mon, live a little
BRIGHT DAYS AHEAD/LE BEAUX JOURS Directed by Marion Vernoux. Starring Fanny Ardant, Laurent Lafitte, Patrick Chesnais Club, QFT, Belfast, 94 min
Having lost her best friend to breast cancer, lonely and bored Caroline (Fanny Ardant), signs up for a local senior activities club. At first, the recently retired dentist is not happy: many of the tutors are patronising, and a drama session ends in humiliation and a walk-out.
A computer problem brings Caroline back to the IT class, as taught by Julien (Laurent Lafitte), a ladies’ man who is several decades her junior. Julien soon finds a way to alleviate her boredom. The pair embark on a sensible, rule-bound affair: he doesn’t talk about his other women; she doesn’t ask. But what will her cuckolded husband (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’s Patrick Chesnais) and grown up daughter think?
Bourgeois marital strife is so commonplace in French cinema, audiences could easily turn random Gallic movies into a drinking game: score two for architect husband, three for impossibly luxurious Parisian apartment and, hey, it’s KST: you’ve hit the jackpot.
Ardant’s mischievous, César-nominated performance allows Marion Vernoux’s film to stand out from the pack. In common with the film’s heroine, Bright Days Ahead just wants to have a little fun. There are serious subtexts here: the idea that retired people are marginalised and invisible; the notion that a 60-year-old might as well be 107; at any rate, both will end up at the same pottery class.
In this context, Caroline’s adulterous activities have a rebellious quality, one that is complemented by increasingly reckless, careless behaviour. An inexperienced cheat, our otherwise clever heroine is hopeless at covering her tracks. It’s one of many contradictions that endear her to us.
Nicolas Gaurin’s sunny cinematography adds to the sense that we’re embroiled in a zipless holiday fling.
Seems like old times: Laurent Lafitte and Fanny Ardant in Bright Days Ahead