Growing older, feeling younger
There's a twinkly dual meaning to the title of the French import Bright Days Ahead.
It refers to the optimistic name of a seaside town's senior activities club, as well as to the immediate future of the newest member, 60-year-old retired dentist Caroline (Fanny Ardant, gorgeous and self-assured). How director Marion Vernoux, who cowrote with Fanny Chesnel (based on Chesnel's novel), melds these halves makes for an enjoyable, unfussy portrait of growing older - and feeling younger.
When Caroline's well-meaning daughters give their antsy mother a trial membership to Bright Days Ahead, Caroline can't help but feel above the center's amateur acting and crafts classes, filled with eager retirees and annoying instructors.
But when hot, much-younger computer teacher Julien (Laurent Lafitte) casts his bedroom eyes upon the lushly beautiful Caroline, she starts seeing the club as one she might want to join after all.
Thus begins a May-December affair between Caroline and the irresistible, "dangerously close to 40" womanizer that makes up in heat what their (tastefully shown) assignations lack in romantic ambition or urgency.
While Caroline soon sets rules to ensure her moments with Julien remain hidden from the Bright Day Ahead members as well as from her weary yet devoted husband, Phillipe (Patrick Chesnais), discretion will prove easier said than done.
If Caroline's fling and its consequences never turn all that earth-shattering - the movie is infused with a certain Gallic casualness - they foster a needed and credible series of subtle emotional shifts in and among the characters.
Also a plus: The well-observed script touches on a number of everyday issues about aging - whether you're pushing 40 or passing 60 - that add a tender and enlightening layer to this engaging, leisurely paced film.
Bright Days Ahead *** (Out of four stars)
Directed by Marion Vernoux. With Laurent Lafitte, Fanny Ardant, Patrick Chesnais. In French with English subtitles. Distributed by Tribeca Film.
Running time: 1 hour, 34 mins.
Parent’s guide: No MPAA rating.
Playing at: PFS at the Roxy.