SOCIETY casts the ageing woman in a rather different – often less flattering – light to the ageing man. It is a brute gender discrepancy that is summarised quite bluntly during one scene of Blandine Lenoir’s delightful film I Got Life.
Aurore (Agnès Jaoui), a 50-year-old woman and soon-to-be grandmother, visits the doctor to ask about remedies for the debilitating hot flushes brought on by menopause. The male doctor cannot help. In fact, he goes on to deliver his ‘philosophical’ assessment of Aurore’s place in life. She is, in his words, on a downward slope that starts for most women when the reach their 30s. At 50, it is all downhill – and fast.
Such a depressing appraisal would be enough for most people to throw in the towel. To allow the strong tides ageism and sexism to sweep them away. Lenoir’s film follows Aurore’s struggle with this bleak outlook as she seeks to find a post-menopause purpose in life. As Aurore asks herself at the start of the film: ‘now my periods have stopped, what am I?’
The pressures of being an ageing woman seep into every aspect of Aurore’s life. At work, a new boss rings unsettling changes and insists on calling her by the wrong name. Aurore soon finds herself on the unemployment line where few opportunities fall her way. So rotten is Aurore’s luck that every automatic door she encounters refuses to open for her – a playful metaphor for the mechanisms of society working against her.
At home, divorcee Aurore faces an empty nest. Her youngest daughter Lucie (Lou Roy-Lecollinet) enjoys the company of a topless, floppy-haired young man who will soon tempt her away.
Aurore’s other daughter, Marina (Sarah Suco), has already left the home and soon announces she is pregnant. It is interesting twist of fate that Aurore’s fertility is coming to a physically irritating end as her daughter’s is just blossoming.
Distracted by her own biological changes, Aurore fails to give Marina the attention she craves. This creates a tension between the two which is only stoked when Aurore uses the Marina’s ultrasound appointment as an excuse to meet up with old flame Christophe (Thibault de Montalembert).
Once fiery young lovers, Aurore seems intent on bringing Christophe back into her life after cruelly leaving him decades ago. But it is clear, at least to us, that Christophe is keen to avoid opening old wounds and would rather keep a gentle distance. A fairly standard will-they-won’t-they ensues.
Despite Aurore’s battle against the downhill slope, there is plenty of joy to be found in I Got Life. Jaoui gifts us a charmed-packed lead performance, flanked by a tremendous female cast. Roy-Lecollinet and Suco are both excellent, as is Pascale Arbillot who plays Aurore’s facetious and loyal friend Mano.
I Got Life is a well-balanced and diversely entertaining watch. One that sprightly hops between jocund laughs, intimate moments, deep introspection, and cutting commentary on the discriminatory forces of ageism and sexism. This is not just a film for the 50-something female audiences. All of us can enjoy – and learn something from – I Got Life.