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My Old Lady (film)

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My Old Lady
U.S. theatrical poster
Directed byIsrael Horovitz
Written byIsrael Horovitz
Based onMy Old Lady
by Israel Horovitz
Produced by
CinematographyMichel Amathieu [fr]
Edited by
  • Jacob Craycroft
  • Stephanie Ahn
Music byMark Orton
Distributed by
  • Curzon Film World (UK)
  • Cohen Media Group (U.S.)
Release dates
  • September 2014 (2014-09) (TIFF)
  • 10 September 2014 (2014-09-10) (U.S.)
  • 21 November 2014 (2014-11-21) (UK)
Running time
107 minutes[1]
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • France
  • English
  • French
Budget$5 million (less than)[2]
Box office$8,651,792[3]

My Old Lady is a 2014 comedy-drama film written and directed by Israel Horovitz in his feature directorial debut, based on his 1996 play of the same name.[4] The film stars Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Dominique Pinon.[5] It was screened in the Special Presentations section of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.[6]


Mathias/'Jim', a down-and-out New Yorker, travels to Paris planning to sell the large, valuable apartment in a coveted area he has inherited from his estranged father. Once there, he discovers an old woman, Mathilde, living in the apartment with her daughter Chloé.

Jim quickly learns that the apartment is a "viager" – an ancient French system for buying and selling property – meaning he will not actually be in possession of it until Mathilde dies. Until then he owes her a life annuity of €2,400 a month. All this is a surprise to him, as his father never told him and Jim had communication problems with the French lawyer, who does not speak English.

Jim has no money and no place to live, but Mathilde will allow him to stay in the apartment with her if he pays rent. However, to pay for the next life annuity payment, he takes and sells furniture from the apartment and also asks a prospective buyer of his contract for advance payments.

Inquiring after Mathilde's health her doctor/English student tells Jim she is in excellent health. Chatting over dinner, he learns she also barters English lessons with the fishmonger. Mathilde asks him if he visited there over the years, but he had not as his mother considered it to be enemy territory.

The next day, Jim invites Chloé and developer François Roy to a café as he wants to discuss possibly selling part of the house by dividing it into two apartments. Neither likes the idea, so Jim asks for a modest retainer while he considers Roy's offer (his way of getting a bit of cash).

Discovering Chloé is going to dinner with her male companion, Jim follows her after class. She goes to a café, waving towards the man with whom Jim has seen her entering a hotel some days before. He waves her off, as he is going to dine with his wife and daughters. Observing this, Jim calls her out on it, trying to blackmail her to avoid paying the 2,400 euros.

Mathias/Jim discovers that Mathilde and his father had a very long-lasting affair started seven years before he was born, while both were married (they could not afford to marry each other). (And incidentally, his French name is the male equivalent of Mathilde.)

Jim makes Mathilde see how her affair with his father affected him and his mother. He felt unloved and ignored, so he turned to drink and had a string of failed marriages. She had a string of failed suicides, finally succeeding when he was 19, which he saw upon return from college.

After meeting with Roy to accept the sale, Jim returns to the apartment. Finding a photo of himself and Chloé together at ten, Mathilde mentions it was the only time he has been there, and that his father stopped coming by after his mother died. Then Jim himself confesses to having slit his own wrists at 40, but although his father lived a few blocks away he did not visit.

Upon reflection of how the adultery of their parents affected them emotionally, Chloé breaks off her affair. Both she and Jim recall and bond over their childhoods. At 10 she realised about her mother's affair, at the same time he is trying to prevent the first of many suicide attempts by his.

The next day, Jim accepts the papers from Roy's lawyer, and Mathilde comes in, postulating that his mother must have known and approved of her affair with his father. When he divulges that she had 10 to 15 suicide attempts, the last being successful, she collapses from shock.

Jim and Chloé have a moment and kiss, but then when she asks Mathilde if she shares a father with Jim, she says she is unsure. He overhears, so goes to run blood tests at the doctor's.

Once Mathias/Jim gets the confirmation that he and Chloé are not related, as she wants to stay in the apartment, he decides at the last minute to decline Roy's multi-million Euro offer for the apartment/contract. Mathilde points out that they do not have to worry about money if they sell en viager, albeit they would receive a modest income due to their relatively young ages.



The film My Old Lady is an adaptation of Horovitz's play of the same name, which premiered in 1996 at the Gloucester Stage Co., founded by Horovitz in East Gloucester, Massachusetts.[11]

Horovitz, principally a playwright and theatre director, and whose plays have been translated and performed in more than 30 languages worldwide, had previously directed only one film, 3 Weeks After Paradise, a 51-minute testimonial from 2002 about his family's experiences following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Center.[12]


My Old Lady is a British–French–American film production venture between BBC Films, Cohen Media Group, and Deux Chevaux Films.[13] The film is produced by Rachael Horovitz (Moneyball), Gary Foster (Sleepless in Seattle), Nitsa Benchetrit and David Barrot. Film production began filming on location in Paris and its surrounding suburbs on 26 September 2013.[14]


On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 61% based on 89 reviews. The site's consensus reads, "Although My Old Lady doesn't quite live up to its stars' talents, Kevin Kline and Maggie Smith carry the film capably whenever they're together onscreen."[15] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 53 out 100 based on reviews from 19 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[16]

John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "Kline remains a pleasure to watch, surviving the character's deepening self-pity and making his suspiciously unwriterly carelessness with words (he refers to the trophy head of a wild boar as a "cow") almost charming."[17] Variety's Andrew Barker gave a mixed review: "Its translation from stage to screen looks to have been a bit rocky, and the film never manages to transcend its actors-workshop aura and develop into something deeper."[18]


  1. ^ "My Old Lady (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. 10 September 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  2. ^ Shattuck, Kathryn (28 August 2014). "Glad to Try 'Something Terrifying'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 4 September 2014.
  3. ^ "My Old Lady". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  4. ^ "Maggie Smith to lead first-time director's Paris film". Daily Express. London. 8 May 2013. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  5. ^ Kemp, Stuart (7 May 2013). "Cannes: Maggie Smith to Star in Israel Horovitz's My Old Lady". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
  6. ^ Punter, Jennie (22 July 2014). "Toronto Film Festival Lineup Includes Denzel Washington's Equalizer, Kate Winslet's A Little Chaos". Variety. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  7. ^ Lattanzio, Ryan (7 May 2013). "Casting Watch: Maggie Smith and Kevin Kline Head to Paris for My Old Lady". IndieWire. Thompson on Hollywood (blog). Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  8. ^ Dickey, Josh (7 September 2013). "Toronto: Kristin Scott Thomas joins My Old Lady; Cohen Media Group acquires North American rights". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  9. ^ Barraclough, Leo (7 May 2013). "Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline to Star in Old Lady". Variety. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  10. ^ Lodderhose, Diana (9 September 2013). "My Old Lady Sells to Slew of International Territories". Variety. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  11. ^ "Israel Horovitz: My Old Lady (Full Length Play, Drama) at samuelfrench.com ISBN 9780573704369 Accessed 4 March 2018
  12. ^ Horovitz' Biography at israelhorovitz.com Accessed 4 March 2018
  13. ^ British Films Directory: Film Detail: My Old Lady, film.britishcouncil.org. Accessed 4 March 2018
  14. ^ "Toronto: Kristin Scott Thomas on Board My Old Lady Opposite Kevin Kline" by Dave McNary, Variety, 6 September 2013. Accessed 4 March 2018
  15. ^ "My Old Lady". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  16. ^ "My Old Lady Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  17. ^ "My Old Lady: Toronto Review". The Hollywood Reporter. 7 September 2014.
  18. ^ Barker, Andrew (6 September 2014). "Toronto Film Review: My Old Lady". Variety.

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