Review: ‘The Gilded Cage’ (M) *** and a half

UnknownTHIS warm-hearted told-in-France tale is Portuguese actor Ruben Alves’s feature writing and directing debut. And a tasty one it is.

Since emigrating to Paris 30 years earlier Maria (Rita Blanco) and Jose (Joaquim de Almeida) have lived comfortable working-class lives, she as concierge at the apartment block belonging to Mme. Reichert (Nicole Croisille), he as foreman for builder Caillaux (Roland Giraux). Employers, neighbours, friends, relations, all benefit from their small, often unpaid, services making major contributions to the comfort and smooth running of their community.

A solicitor’s letter arrives. Jose’s brother in Portugal has bequeathed his estate to Jose. And what a bequest it is – land, vineyard, winery and 200,000+ Euros per annum business. For Maria and Jose, accepting will mean a powerful lifestyle change. Will they accept its conditions? How can they abandon so many people depending on them?

Keeping the legacy secret is impossible, but it takes time for Maria and Jose to learn that it is common knowledge. An epiphany is necessary. The gentle tie-breaker is difficult.

The humour is warm. The social condition of Portuguese immigrants gets a gentle examination. The crises are small-scale, the tensions are not threatening. The conflicts find one kind of resolution before the epiphany, an opposite kind after it. The film’s totality offers an agreeable package.

 At Palace Electric

 

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