There's a twinkly dual meaning to the title of the French import "Bright Days Ahead." It refers to the optimistic name of a seaside town's senior activities club as well as to the immediate future of the group's newest member, 60-year-old retired dentist Caroline (Fanny Ardant, gorgeous and self-assured). How director Marion Vernoux, who co-wrote with Fanny Chesnel (based on Chesnel's novel), melds these two halves makes for an enjoyable and unfussy portrait of growing older — and feeling younger.
When Caroline's well-meaning daughters gift their antsy mom with a trial membership to Bright Days Ahead, Caroline can't help but feel above the center's amateur acting and crafts classes, filled with eager retirees and annoying instructors. But when hot, much younger computer teacher Julien (Laurent Lafitte) casts his bedroom eyes upon the lushly beautiful Caroline, she starts seeing the club as one she might want to belong to after all.
Thus begins a May-December affair between Caroline and the irresistible, "dangerously close to 40" womanizer that makes up for in heat what their (tastefully shown) assignations lack in romantic ambition or urgency.
While Caroline soon sets rules to ensure her moments with Julien remain hidden from the Bright Days Ahead members as well as from her weary, yet devoted husband, Phillipe (Patrick Chesnais), discretion will prove easier said than done.
If Caroline's fling and its consequences may never turn all that earth-shattering — the movie is infused with a certain Gallic casualness — they foster a needed and credible series of subtle emotional shifts in and among the characters.
Also a plus: The well-observed script touches on a number of everyday issues about the aging process — whether you're pushing 40 or passing 60 — that add a tender and enlightening layer to this engaging, leisurely paced film.
"Bright Days Ahead."
No MPAA Rating.
Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes.
In French with English subtitles.