FFF: And if we all lived together – A very enjoyable senior moment.

According to the ‘Innovative housing solutions for older Australians” paper brought out by the Australian Government recently, the baby boomers can be expected to transform aging in exactly the same way they have changed every other aspect of life they lived through. Among other things, the paper had the following quote:

People are living longer and with decreased savings and wanting to control who they live with. There will be many more models that are developed to suit specific groups.  People with like interests will be purchasing properties as a collective. Friends will decide that they will take control of their living conditions in the years ahead.  People will share in intentional communities where like-minded people get together supported by the built environment with spaces such as art studios, dance studios and cinemas.

In this way, Stéphane Robelin has tapped into an important and very contemporary subject in the film “And if we all lived together”.

Five close friends, five different characters: Claude (Claude Rich), who has always loved women; Annie (Geraldine Chaplin) and Jean (Guy Bedos), the unlikely couple, he a political activist, she bourgeois and conventional; and Jeanne (Jane Fonda) and Albert (Pierre Richard), the feminist and the bon vivant. Five longtime friends, five different problems with growing old: Claude’s heart has now grown far weaker than his flaming passion; Jean is denied his humanitarian commitment because his insurance company doesn’t want to take the risk; Annie wants to win back her grandchildren with an expensive garden pool; Jeanne conceals a serious illness; and Albert doesn’t notice that his memory is playing tricks on him. Their solution: moving in together.

At first they don’t like the idea of giving up their individual freedoms, but when Claude’s son has him placed in a nursing home, the friends decide they have to bust him out and they take up Jean’s original suggestion that they all live together. Although there are complications and difficulties, scenes at the end of the film make it clear why you need peers of your own age around you when you are starting to lose your health, both mental and physical. A friend going through something similar themselves that you have endless shared experiences with may be better placed to understand than families or professional care.

Robelin both wrote and directed the film, and did a great job. The actors chosen are accomplished and also, people we knew when they were young, now in their twilight years, so there is an added dimension here that creates a lot of fun. Jane Fonda has had so much face work she looks 10 years younger than the others and that’s a huge shame because Geraldine Chaplin looks every bit as sexy without any of the plastic. So the women carry their own interesting statement on aging and being in the public eye.

Along for the ride is the very easy-on-the-eye Daniel Bruhl who plays a sociologist major who wants to study the shared house arrangement. He’s lovely as the young man about to make some big mistakes in his own life, who turns everything around after taking advice from Jane Fonda. To take care of accents, Jane Fonda is seen to be an American immigrant and Daniel Bruhl has some amusing scenes when Albert (whose father was killed by Nazis) suffering from short-term memory loss keeps asking him where he is from ad the answers get more and more creative. As I said before the film is a lot of fun, filled with very joyful moments and plenty of warm fuzzies.

In fact if the film has any major problems, it is the sentimentality. it slips into cliché regularly  – even when dealing with such fresh subject matter – when it really doesn’t need to. We warm very strongly to the characters.  They are well written and strongly performed. There is no need for those well-worn clichés about seniors and sex. It reminded me of Grandpa Simpson writing to complain to 1“`the television about hating the way seniors are represented: We are not all fun-loving, outdoorsy sexmaniacs he argues. We know seniors have sex, and yes we know if they are not that there is something wrong. Just in case you weren’t sure, here is another film that will educate you on the fact.

Other than that (and I have to say the sex does create some very funny moments) the film does have a lot of food for thought with regards to the interesting topic of growing older together. As Jeanne states at the start of the film, “We prepare for every aspect of our lives. Why not for our twilight years?”

Why indeed.