Movie Review: “On My Way” Is A Powerful Film About Love, Life And Everything In Between

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Review by James McDonald

Facing a failed relationship and a struggling restaurant, a woman hits the road for a trip with her grandson.

No matter how gracefully Catherine Deneuve ages, she will always be a beautiful and accomplished actress. From her unforgettable breakout performance in “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion”, to her Academy Award-Nominated performance in “Indochine”, Ms. Deneuve always has been and always will be, an exceptionally remarkable performer. “On my Way” (original title “Elle s’en va”) tells the story of Bettie (Catherine Deneuve), who lives in a small French town along with her mother. Together, they own and run a small bistro that they live above. Bettie’s one true love and soulmate of many years left her for a younger woman and she has been having a very difficult time coming to terms with it. One day during lunch, she walks out of the restaurant and drives off, with no destination in mind.

She stops in another small town where she proceeds to the local bar and gets drunk, trying to take her mind off of her misery and in the process, winds up sleeping with a much younger man. The next day, she receives a phone call from her estranged daughter Muriel (Camille), claiming that she has a new job out of town and asks her if she’ll come by to pick up her grandson and drive him to his grandfather’s. Bettie obliges as she hasn’t seen Charly (Nemo Schiffman) in some time and when she picks him up, they begin their long trek to his grandfather’s place. The movie never tells us about Bettie’s life until it comes up in conversation, whether it’s with Charly or Muriel or whomever. It’s almost like meeting a stranger for the very first time, we see them from the outside in and as we gradually get to know them, we find out more and more about them.

When Bettie’s credit card is denied along the way, Charly starts to freak out but she tells him that they’re going to stay at a beautiful hotel for free. Come to find out, Bettie was once a finalist in the Miss France pageant a long time ago and the committee have been trying to get all the finalists from that year’s competition together for a photo reunion. During the photo session, Bettie faints because of all the stress going on in her life and the heat of the lights and the flashing bulbs don’t help. When she wakes up, Charly is by her bedside in the hospital along with his grandfather. Initially, he is very abrupt with her, annoyed at the fact that he had to drive over three hundred miles to pick up his grandson but when the doctors tell Bettie that she can’t drive home by herself and needs to rest for a few days, Charly insists on her coming back to his grandfather’s house in the country.

While there, her whole family descends upon the house, from her worried, aging mother to Muriel, whose job didn’t work out. Old demons resurface and are finally laid to rest and for the first time in a long time, Bettie begins to fall in love again. “On my Way” is a movie that takes its time setting up the story and the characters and makes no apologies for doing so. Ms. Deneuve gives a wonderfully nuanced performance which in itself, is not a ‘performance’. With today’s wham-bam action-oriented movies, it was so refreshing to watch a film full of beautiful imagery and genuinely authentic characters that by the end of the movie, you felt like you were a part of Bettie’s very dysfunctional and wounded family. Then again, whose family isn’t?

In select theaters May 2nd including the Angelika Dallas

on my way

James McDonald
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