Disappointingly tedious, On My Way is a contrived vehicle for Gallic icon Catherine Deneuve. At 70, she’s still the embodiment of placid ripeness we know and love, but the movie has little substance.
On My Way ★★
Written by: Emmanuelle Bercot and Jérôme Tonnerre
Directed and written by her personal friend Emmanuelle Bercot, the original title was There She Goes. Since it’s a familiar cinematic road trip, that was a better title than On My Way, because it’s clear she’s not on her way to anywhere in particular and in no hurry to get there. Ms. Deneuve plays Bettie, the stressed-out owner of a small provincial restaurant whose lover, after years of hope, has finally left his wife—but for a younger woman, not Bettie.
Disillusioned, she leaves the café, gets in her car and starts driving aimlessly, with the ghastly, monotonous Rufus Wainwright record “This Love Affair” droning its feeble way through your brain on the soundtrack. After a pointless drunken fling with a man half her age at a bar, she gets a call from the daughter she hardly knows, asking her to drive the 10-year-old grandson she doesn’t know at all to his paternal grandfather’s house. The rest of the movie shows them forming the predictable, inevitable bond you come to expect from all road pictures.
Pretty postcard views of the French countryside enhance the scenes in the rearview mirror, but the only thing that truly keeps the curiosity going for nearly two hours is wondering what Catherine Deneuve will do next, which isn’t much. The movie is so weightless and airless that when Ms. Deneuve, a former beauty queen, makes a pit stop at a pageant for contest winners, you wonder if it’s an outtake from a different movie.
Mr. Bercot shows no talent for timing, precision or the first thing they teach you in directing class: how to move a story along from one scene to the next. In one lull, an old man spends what feels like 10 minutes rolling a cigarette while the star looks on with unnatural patience. But Ms. Deneuve is still France’s most alluring septuagenarian, exuding a feminine nonchalance and a fragrance pungent and durable as Amarige. She seems at all times believable, even when everything around her is so comparatively modest it melts like mist in the Auvergne.