Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris
Director: Anthony Fabian
Writer: Carroll Cartwright, Anthony Fabian, Keith Thompson, Olivia Hetreed
Based on: Paul Gallico‘s novel
Cast: Lesley Manville, Isabelle Huppert, Lambert Wilson, Alba Baptista, Lucas Bravo, Ellen Thomas, Rose Williams, Jason Isaacs, Anna Chancellor, Christian McKay
Seen on: 1.12.2022
Ada Harris (Lesley Manville) works as a cleaner for various rich households in London. Otherwise her life consists of trips to the pub with her best friends Violet (Ellen Thomas) and Archie (Jason Isaacs), and waiting for her husband to return from the war, 10 years too late and against all odds. Then two things happen in short succession: she sees the most beautiful dress at one of the houses she cleans, a dress by Dior; and she finally has the confirmation that her husband died many years ago – and she is entitled to quite a backlog of a widow’s pension. So, Ada hatches a plan: she will travel to Paris and get herself a Dior dress.
Mrs Harris Goes to Paris is a supersweet film, one of those films that are simply nice entertainment, with a bit of a moral and a simply wonderful Lesley Manville.
I don’t know why, but it feels like “nice” movies have gone out of style. We very rarely get films that want to charm and warm, and not much more. But Mrs Harris Goes to Paris gives us just that. It has a fantastic, fairy-tale-ish atmosphere, though the sweet, floating dream is interrupted every once in a while with very astute observations about classism.
Lesley Manville floats through the film, all natural grace no matter how out of her own depth Ada is, and no matter how ungraceful the people are around her. She wants to make the world a nicer place for everyone, and finally, after all this time, maybe even for herself, though she has a bit to learn there.
But the people around her have even more to learn, and Ada Harris is there to teach them (ironically, this feeds into classist tropes when the film is otherwise so conscious about classism). A bit of common sense and a good heart, and all these rich folk become better, happier people. That Ada persists even in the steely-eyed gaze of Claudine Colbert (Isabelle Huppert) shows that her soft, polite exterior is not a lack of strength, but a conscious choice to go through the world as a kind person.
I’m not much of a fashion person myself, though the costumes are certainly gorgeous here, but you don’t need to share Ada’s dream to applaud her for following it. In the end, she returns to her old life, but she has changed, and maybe her old life won’t be quite as old anymore, either. And the audience leaves the cinema, somehow feeling lighter.
Summarizing: warm and wonderful.