The folksy, light-hearted quality of this French/Portuguese co-production sets it up for success in the suburban arthouse cinema scene for retirees looking for an escape from daytime TV. With shades of Downton Abbey set in contemporary Paris, it possesses the kind of allegorical quality one might find in the Bible. In other words, in telling the story of a couple who always put others' needs ahead of their own, only to be continually taken advantage of, it speaks to certain Christian themes, such as respect and honouring fellow human beings. It also speaks to elements of French Socialism, especially the need to negate class distinction and the breaking down of social and ethnic barriers.
As a comedy, it underplays its hand while overstating its purpose. The humour could be richer, more nuanced, less farcical. It almost borders on Italianesque as the interplay and subterfuge between characters tries the patience. As the parents, Maria (Rita Blanco) and Jose (Joaquim de Almeida) are likable but mildly pathetic, while those around them, with the exception of their children, are portrayed as Chaucer-like caricatures, making plenty of noise but ultimately signifying nothing.
PG; 90 minutes. Out now.