Film Review: Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris is simply delightful

If you are a couture fan, this film will thrill your aesthetics as much as they thrill Ada

Poster of Mrs. Harris goes to Paris
Poster of Mrs. Harris goes to Paris

Subhash K Jha

Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris (Prime Video)

Rating: *** 1/2 (three and a half)

The underrated, monstrously gifted Lesley Manville is the life, soul and breath of this enchanting nugget about a lonely British househelp woman (with two incredibly supportive friends) in London in 1957 who comes into some unexpected money. Instead of putting the fortune away for a rainy day, Ada travels to Paris to buy herself an expensive Christian Dior dress.

It is a hideously inappropriate self-indulgence for a woman in a recession-hit society where Ada loses her job quickly. Refreshingly Ada doesn’t sit and mourn. Not for long. Armed with the widow’s pension, she sets off to chase a dream in the city of dreams, Paris. It is a terrific notion to liberate a widow from her mourning straight to her evening of self-fulfillment in an era when action spoke louder than words and every action was targeted by moralists and prudes as a sign of sinful pleasure pursuit.

The images in the Christian Dior property in Paris are straight from a  fairytale. If you are a couture fan, this film will thrill your aesthetics as  much as they thrill Ada. All those divine dresses floating around Ada…she feels she is in a dream.

So do we. Director Anthony Fabian (loved his two early directorials Skin and Louder Than Words, especially the former) places Ada in a bubble of self-gratification. We are allowed neither to judge nor disapprove of her blithe choices in life.

That flaming-red Christian Dior dress is what she will have. Like watching a derby horse hoof it to the finishing line, we follow Ada’s dream right to its logical conclusion. There is something distinctly fairytale-like in the way Ada gets her dream dress. Although set during a time when society was in flux, there seems to be little here to disturb Ada’s dreamscape beyond the initial shock of being declared a war widow. But that too comes with a price, in a good way, as Ada gets a widow’s pension that makes her fly off into her dream.

Seen as a fairytale, Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris is as charming as Cinderella on a flight instead of a stagecoach. In Paris, she meets only gracious helpful people who help her realize her dream. There is the legendary French actress Isabelle Huppert playing the spoilsport. But even she purrs like a cat before too long.

This is a charming dream-come-true film shot with restrained grace and feeling.

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