Reviewed by Marc Glassman
Interest in this film comes from two sources—admirers of the cast and those interested in the intriguing premise. Stephane Robelin, director and writer of And If We All Lived Together? (Et si on vivait tous ensemble?), has set up a fascinating story. What would happen if five septuagenarians, friends for 50 years, chose to live out the rest of their lives taking care of each other?
Add to that notion, a fine cast. Jane Fonda, whose American accented French is excellent, tends to dominate proceedings. Call her the Queen of the democratic ensemble, which includes comic Pierre Richard, activist–actor Guy Bedos, character actor Claude Rich and Charlie Chaplin’s famous daughter Geraldine.
Romantic comedy, drama about aging
Two couples, Annie (Chaplin), a psychologist, and Jean (Bedos), a wealthy activist and Jeanne (Fonda), an academic and Albert (Richard), a writer in the early stages of Alzheimer’s have been friends with Claude (Rich) and his deceased wife for half a century. They all need each other, particularly Claude, who has a heart condition likely exacerbated by his frequent visits to hookers; but so do Albert, fighting early Alzheimer’s and Jeanne who is secretly dying of cancer.
When the frail Albert can no longer control his huge dog, Jeanne hires Dirk, a young German graduate student to supplement her as a caregiver and be a dog-walker. Meanwhile, Claude has a heart attack walking up too many stairs with his latest prostitute. Jean takes matters by the hand and moves his friends into the huge home he shares with Annie. And Dirk comes along to help them all.
Unfortunately, just as the plot begins to take off—and we’re halfway through the film at this point—director-writer Robelin diverts the tale into a melodrama. Long hidden infidelities are revealed and instead of learning how they can live together, the quintet must deal with how to forgive and forget.
The best scenes in the film take place between Fonda and Bruhl (the young German, Dirk) as they talk about life, love and sex while walking Albert’s dog. Inevitably, the film reaches a denouement, which is touching but the provocative title’s query, And If We All Lived Together? Is rarely addressed.
Stellar, particularly Fonda, who is vulnerable and moving in ways she rarely is in Hollywood films.
Robelin elicits remarkable performances. His storytelling skills need to be perfected but that will come with time. Robelin isn’t a great visual artist but the sort of dialogue heavy scripts that he creates doesn’t require much artistic punch.
Fonda is wonderful in this film and one does feel immersed in the lives of the five 70-year-olds. No masterpiece, And If We All Lived Together? is truly a Zoomer film. Those of a certain age should see this film.