Screened as part of NZIFF 2013
This generous, upstairs-downstairs comedy from French-Portuguese director/co-writer Ruben Alves comes richly informed by his own upbringing as the son of Portuguese immigrants in Paris
Since leaving Portugal 30 years ago, Maria and José have been living in their modest ground floor lodgings in a smart Parisian apartment building. Maria is the building’s concierge, always available – even on her day off – delivering mail, polishing banisters, pruning the courtyard roses, and generally maintaining the chic standards the inhabitants depend on. José, a building site foreman, takes equal pride in his work and is equally as indispensable to his boss, Francis. José’s ability to manage a team and see projects through gives Francis time to pursue the leisurely lifestyle to which he’s accustomed.
This ‘natural order’ of things comes asunder when José learns he has inherited a contested family property and the couple’s dream of returning to Portugal is now possible. But, how will their employers cope? And what about their teenage son and adult daughter, whose roots have been firmly planted in Parisian soil? And do they in fact even want to leave behind this ‘gilded cage’ they have made for themselves?
Soon family, neighbours, friends and employers are outdoing each other to find ways to prevent Maria and José from leaving. Dealing wittily with cultural and social differences, the film is a smart, well-crafted comedy, sporting a terrific Portuguese and French ensemble cast, spot-on comic timing and a thoroughly appealing central couple, whose dilemmas are portrayed with great affection. — Sandra Reid