C’mon, live a lit­tle

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM - TARA BRADY

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

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