A keenly observed and precisely constructed French comedy that has some meat on its thematic bones without ever being heavy going, this is a touching meditation on the human propensity for sabotaging our desires because of obligations to others.
Its main characters, Maria (Blanco) and Jose (de Almeida) Ribeiro are a Portuguese couple who have been living for 30 years in Paris where he is the foreman for a big construction firm and she is the concierge at a swanky apartment building (where they live in the modest entrance lodge).
Their respective employers have depended on (not to say exploited) them for so long that they can't live without them, which becomes a problem when the couple inherits a vineyard back home on the death of an estranged sibling.
The "secret" news races through the parallel upstairs and downstairs communities in which they live, as well as the neighbourhood at large, and various deceptions and finagles begin to manipulate them into staying.
Social class is an abiding element in French cinema and writer-director Alves adds culture clash to great effect (watch for the scene when veal blanquette faces off against salted cod fritters). With the help of a uniformly excellent ensemble he conjures up some wonderful comic ironies as he plays everyone's motives off against each other. Subplots involving the respective romantic aspirations of the couple's adult daughter and teenage son are also well handled. It's a lot of fun.
Cast: Rita Blanco, Joaquim de Almeida, Roland Giraud, Chantal Lauby, Barbara Cabrita, Alex Alves Pereira
Director: Ruben Alves
Running time: 91 mins
Language: In French and Portuguese with English subtitles
Verdict: Culture clash was never so funny. The Gilded Cage offers comedy with some meat on its bones