French actress/director Emmanuelle Bercot’s lazy day road movie features the glorious Catherine Deneuve as Bettie, a 60-something one-time Miss Brittany taking a runner behind the wheel as a temporary escape from her small town life and family tangles.
Bercot and co-writer Jerome Tonnerre (“The Women on the 6th Floor”) wrote the script with Deneuve in mind, and it’s relaxed story arc let’s all of Deneuve’s considerable craft play out in a nuanced performance. Deneuve (reportedly 69) was nominated for her 12th Cesar for the role. Cohen Media Group picked up the film before it premiered at the 2013 Berlinale.
As a young glamour star, Deneuve was often cast as an aloof blonde beauty, eventually sharing her lock on those parts in European films with Dominique Sanda. In her later career she had more change to demonstrate her dedicated acting chops.
Bettie lives in convivial domesticity with her mother Annie (Claude Gensac)over the restaurant she runs somewhere in Bretagne. The hard-working Bettie learns her long time lover is leaving his wife to marry a 25-year old girl. Canny Annie dispenses wise motherly advice.
Bettie, who turned down other suitors for decades waiting for her lover to get up the nerve to leave his wife, is living on the restaurant’s dwindling proceeds.
The Miss Brittany committee has invited her to reunion, in the hopes of featuring former regional pageant winners from 1969 in a commemorative calendar shoot. Bettie turns them down.
Bettie walks out of the restaurant “for cigarettes” and travels the back roads of France. Her escape route takes her through her native Bretagne, and as far as the Loire and Haute-Savoie regions. There’s a sweet scene with an old timer who rolls her a cigarette since there is nowhere nearby she can buy one. Bercot focuses on aging in various ways, She lingers on the gnarled hands of the do-gooder who rolls the cigarette. A raging abusive husband heaps misogynist insults about aging dames on Bettie when she tries to intervene
Pulling her old gold Mercedes into a nightclub, where she’s befriended by the local girls on a toot, she ends up in bed with the considerably younger, macho Marco (Paul Hamy).
“I tried to imagine you young” , he says, awakening Bettie from her dreamy attempt to recapture her youth. The line has resonance because of Deneuve’s legendary beauty.
She’s estranged from quarrelsome daughter Muriel. Single parent Muriel (pop-star Camille) calls with a desperate favor. She’s due in Brussels for a job, and needs someone to pick up her son, 11-year old Charlie (Nemo Schiffman) and deliver him to his paternal grandfather (Gerard Garouste). Painter, designer Garouste is splendid as the thorny provincial with whom Bettie finds a pleasant reconciliation.
Nemo Schiffman (Bercot and D.P Guillaume Schiffman’s son) is relaxed and funny as rascally Charlie, who manages to wrangle Bettie into taking him on the Miss Brittany junket. Schiffman, who shot “The Artists” captures the summer charms of France without calling attention to it and costume designer Pascaline Chavanne dresses down her star.
I preferred the French title (Elles s’en vas” which translates to “There She Goes” or “She’s On Her Way”) to “On My Way.”