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Bright Days Ahead (Les Beaux Jours) by Marion Vernoux

November 19, 2013


Caroline (Fanny Ardant) is a retired dentist, she is sixty years old and her best friend just died, so Caroline tries to infuse something new into her life going to Les Beaux Jours – an association organizing activities for old people – less than ten minutes into the film Caroline will be involved in a frenetic activity with the computer instructor of the place, but not the kind of activity advertised in the menu of Les Beaux Jours.


I ignore what was the motivation of Marion Vernoux dediding to direct a film about the troubles of retirement – the director herself is 47 – nowadays young people seem to live distressed times much more than their parents who even if they are old are enjoying good health and retirement, but I am not even sure Bright Days Ahead is about old age and retirement, because it is difficult getting into the tone and rhythm of this film: in the first scene – the first day of Caroline at Les Beaux Jours – she rejects the place and the people in it, it looks like the natural reaction of a person who had an active role in the world and instantly refuses her new – diminished – status, alas Vernoux has given this scene a grotesque aura – sounding like a satirical tone towards the place itself – which makes arduous for the viewer to accept that Caroline will return to it a few days later, the scene could have been better if Vernoux had shot it from Caroline´s point of view – meaning: the place is not grotesque, it is she who sees it that way, it would have been a better laugh and Caroline´s return to the place a few days later would have represented a change/grow/acceptance of her character. Another puzzling situation is Caroline´s relationship with Philippe (Patrick Chesnais) – her husband – the guy is so passive, so unresponsive and when they are in the same scene their behavior reveals nothing of a couple who has spent thirty-five years together, not even that of an estranged one. Vernoux´s whim of centering the film exclusively around Fanny Ardant´s character has weakened the narrative and though Ardant is four years older than Caroline she looks too young and beautiful for the part, and you cannot make a comedic romance about an old woman when your lead is Fanny Ardant.

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