film review: and if we all lived together?
And If We All Lived Together? puts a human face to that demographic we’re always hearing about on the news: the ageing population. This French film is the story of five lifelong friends who decide that the best way to deal with old age is to all move in together. When the lady-loving bachelor Claude (Claude Rich) ends up in a nursing home, his activist friend Jean (Guy Bedos) decides enough is enough, and so Claude and their friends Jeanne (Jane Fonda) and Albert (Pierre Richard) move into the grand old house belonging to Jean and his wife Annie (Geraldine Chaplin).
They are joined by young ethnology student Dirk (Daniel Brühl), who was hired to walk Albert’s boisterous dog, but soon takes to studying the five friends for his thesis on the older generation. The friends encounter the frustrations of sharing their space with each other, and old secrets well-kept for decades seem bound to come bursting out of their hiding places. But they also find joy in their times together, and soon it becomes clear that being there for each other is what is most important.
The opening to this film is rather depressing. Each character seems to be in a deteriorating situation and it seems they may only offer sadness. However, the characters and their stories come to life once they finally agree to all live together and Dirk comes into their little group. Now the movie becomes wonderfully funny, and the characters become more and more endearing. It still has its sad parts, of course, but they are beautifully crafted and anything but dull.
The relationship that develops between Jeanne and Dirk while they walk the dog is probably the highlight of the film. Their honest chats subvert the assumption that the young cannot connect with older generations. In fact, this film turns a lot of clichés on their head. Most notably, the common idea that people past a certain age do not have, desire or think about sex is challenged regularly.
The film ends unexpectedly on a rather melancholy note, but this finish provides a lot of food for thought. The six main actors, their interactions, and the film’s willingness to look at life in its later years with humour and heart, make And If We All Lived Together memorable and lovely to watch.
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