After a mixed run with French films I’d rented on the strength of their blurbs, I hit the jackpot with this one. It was everything promised and more to boot.
The story of a strait-laced Parisian businessman who comes to life through his interactions with the Spanish housekeepers who live on the sixth floor of his apartment building, this really was a romantic comedy, both romantic and comic. I was drawn to it by its plot summary but also by its male lead, Fabrice Luchini. I enjoyed his performances in Molière, Potiche and The Girl from Monaco and so decided to give this one a go. He again delivered a solid performance, although on reflection, I’ve realised that his character in this film has quite a lot in common with the characters he played in Potiche and The Girl From Monaco. Perhaps he has the sort of face that suits repressed introverts longing to break free.
The women in the movie, all of them, were very good. Sandrine Kiberlain is apparently a comedienne of note, but here she does a great job of playing the straight guy. VERY straight, in a way that makes a ramrod look like a spongy corkscrew. It’s credit to the writers and to her performance that she does not come off as the villain.
The film is set in the fifties, making it a recent period piece of sorts. The Spanish domestics were all fleeing either economic hardship, or Franco’s brutality, and the film’s depiction of the conditions they endured showed that when it comes to mistreatment and exploitation of immigrant workers, only the origin countries change. Without condemning the elite who did the exploiting, the film still made sure that the women on the sixth floor were the emotional core.
Natalia Verbeke shone as the new girl, the woman who was key to breaking Fabrice Luchini’s character out of his routine existence. Apart from being very easy on the eyes, she impressed me with the way she gave life to a not particularly original character, and I’m going to try to find some more of her work.
This is one film that is not like a box of chocolates – you know exactly what you’re going to get. What you get is a sweet, funny film that does justice to its characters and lives up to its feel-good billing. A very pleasant timepass.