It’s rare to find a film with a female writer and director, a fifty-something female lead and strong supporting roles for women of all ages, and here’s one that hails not from Hollywood, but from France.
In response to the lack of opportunities for mature women in the film industry, writer-director Blandine Lenoir and co-writer Jean-Luc Gaget have given them a voice in a celebration of sisterhood entitled “I Got Life!”
There’s even a cameo role for philosopher and author Francoise Heritier, who puts in a brief appearance, by video, to challenge the narrow view history has traditionally taken of the various stages of a woman’s life.
The lead role of Aurore is played by Agnes Jaoui, whose broad emotional range encompasses every mood, from vivacity to vulnerability. The restaurant where Aurore works has a new patron – and she’s tired of being patronised. When her new boss insists on calling her Samantha because he thinks it sounds sexier than her own name, she quits, only to discover that getting a suitable new job as a waitress is harder than she expected.
The name Aurore has in fact been dropped from the film’s original title, to be replaced in the English translation by “I Got Life!” after the song by Nina Simone which plays in a poignant scene where Aurore imagines herself dancing with her daughters when they were young. The two girls are now on the cusp of adulthood, with the younger one, Lucie, (Lou Roy-Lecollinet) planning to leave home to stay with her boyfriend and elder daughter Marina (Sarah Suco) announcing that she’s expecting a baby.
As Aurore faces the prospect of seeing her children fly the nest and becoming a grandmother, while dealing with symptoms of the menopause and her husband demanding a divorce, she begins to fear growing old alone.
The only light at the end of the tunnel is an unexpected meeting with her old flame Christophe Totoche, (Thibaut de Montalembert) who she hasn’t seen in 25 years. Marina’s pregnancy provides a convenient excuse for Aurore to arrange another encounter with Christophe, who happens to work in the ultrasound department at a nearby hospital.
The couple begin an on-off courtship littered with the inevitable mishaps and misunderstandings, and while the denouement ties up all the loose ends neatly, it feels rather contrived.
Cliched moments aside, this uplifting comedy drama still makes a refreshing change from your average Hollywood blockbuster, and it seems appropriate that Aurore’s journey should end on a note of optimism.
I Got Life! is available on DVD and On Demand from 2 July. French with English subtitles.
Review by Angela Lord