People have said it’s tough to teach an old dog new tricks. However, when it comes to relationships, it’s tough to find a way to keep the surprises from rolling their way on in, no matter what your age may be.
Such is the idea behind the new film from director Stephane Robelin, entitled All Together. Drawing comparisons to its seemingly next of kin, 2012’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the film follows the story of five old companions who decide to move in together as opposed to heading to a retirement home. Joined by a student who is both interested in studying their relationship and also hired as a caretaker, the film unspools, as do the relationships and the secrets behind them. A comedy at heart, All Together is one of 2012’s most enjoyable pictures, while also being an intriguing, if not quite new, look at interpersonal relationships and how they can change throughout the duration of one’s life.
As with any ensemble cast, this collection of actors absolutely carries the picture. Featuring the likes of Geraldine Chaplin, Daniel Bruhl and even Jane Fonda (in her first non-English language performance since Godard’ Tout Va Bien), everyone involved gives the highest level of performance. Bruhl is great here as the equivalent of the eyes and ears of the audience, a young voice who adds an interesting sense of youth to the picture. Geraldine Chaplin is fantastic here, giving a great deal of grace to the picture, outside of the moments when she and counterpart played by Guy Bedos decide to verbally spar (which is routinely the case). Bedos is great here as a man far removed from his days as a self-described revolutionary, with the single one of the bunch, Claude (played by Claude Rich) also dealing directly with aging, but instead finding his heart not up to snuff with his libido. However, it’s Fonda’s performance, as well as the one of Pierre Richard (who plays her husband, Albert) that is the most intriguing. Albert is in the early stages of Alzheimers, and is slowly losing everything that makes him truly who he is. Their relationship is genuinely moving, and adds such a level of melancholy to an otherwise lively picture, that it gives All Together a great deal of depth.
Penned by Robelin, the film is far smarter than one written by a man of his age would seemingly be able to pen. Blending comedic moments of heartfelt naturalism with equally real and true moments of pure emotion and stark melancholy, the film is able to walk an emotional tightrope that makes films of this ilk either come across as slight or melodramatic. A great, if not entirely fresh, meditation on aging and the human experience of aging, All Together takes this dark topic and instead of turning it into a television movie level piece, elevates the picture with heartfelt moments of comedy and genuineness.
Equally fantastic visually, the film doesn’t thrive on any stylistic flights of fancy, but instead opts for a very ‘French’ aesthetic, in that it simply allows the warm and inviting cinematography to bring the viewer into this world. It’s a luscious picture with some truly top notch photography, allowing for the viewer to feel as though they are truly a fly upon the wall of this home. Ultimately concluding on a truly upsetting note, All Together is one of 2012’s most affecting pictures, and its entirely due to the combination of brilliant performances and a writer/director so comfortable in dealing with both drama and comedy.
Not a world shattering look at aging, or even as emotionally devastating as a film like Away From Her ultimately proved this subject could be fodder for, All Together is a fantastic look at aging that is saved by a collection of top notch performances and a filmmaker on the top of his game. With a final coda that will leave anyone and everyone in tears, this indie out of France will be hard to forget.