Mrs Harris Goes To Paris – Review

Cert – PG, Run-time – 1 hour 56 minutes, Director – Anthony Fabian

Mild-mannered, widowed cleaner Mrs Harris (Lesley Manville) sets out to achieve her dream of buying a Christian Dior dress from Paris.

Mrs Harris Goes To Paris is a film lifted up thanks to the way it captures its events through the eyes of the titular central character. Lesley Manville plays the mild-mannered cleaner who, after finding out she’s owed a war-widows pension fund from her beloved Eddie who passed away 13 years before during World War II, jets off to Paris with her eyes set on buying a Christian Dior dress. She’s an uncynical, unassuming figure out for a big one-day adventure before returning to her quiet life. The film captures this spirit perfectly with an effortless-feeling level of charm which simply helps to wrap you up in the unfolding events all from the warm viewpoint of the leading figure of Ada Harris.

After eventually making her way into a Christian Dior show – only being allowed in after displaying her rolls of saved up money to brand image-aware directress Mrs Colbert (Isabelle Huppert) and receiving an invitation in the moment from Lambert Wilson’s Marquis de Chassange – a one day trip turns into a couple of weeks away. A dress must be custom made to fit the buyer. As she begins her sessions of fitting and measuring Manville’s character jokes you “don’t get this king of fuss for a frock down Woolworths”. There’s a light tone throughout such sequences thanks to the joy which Manville brings to the role. As she attends the Dior show and watches the parade of dresses in astonishment you almost feel the same emotions and uplift thanks to the subtle connection you’ve formed with her through the film’s styling.

While something of an outsider in Paris, particularly in the world of high-end fashion with her brightly-coloured cardigans, there’s no denying the effect that Mrs Harris has. Overtime she begins to bring together the likes of Dior accountant André (Lucas Bravo) and top model Natasha (Alba Baptiste). Such strands may be structured with convention but to a large degree you don’t mind thanks to the likable nature of the piece, helped by its slightly stripped-back nature and calm attitude to many proceedings. Even the hints of a potential romance with the Marquis simply add to the point that Mrs Harris’ kindness has a genuine effect on those around her without it being made a big deal of. With her interacting with so many people it may mean that the final stages feel slightly drawn out with their holding various resolutions and further developments, but there’s still a tonal consistency to enjoy and be caught up in.

Perhaps where this adaptation of novel Mrs ‘Arris Goes To Paris succeeds the most is in the fact that it marks itself as something of a rarity. A good, enjoyable film free of cynicism. It’s something we don’t often see, but when we do it serves as a pleasant delight – much like the titular Mrs Harris, wonderfully performed by Manville with a similar air of natural charm as the character. This is a film where the central figure goes to Paris to buy a dress. And from the moment you realise things have clicked and you see her reactions to the display that’s shown before her during the key show sequence you truly want to see her succeed in this aim. There may be a number of positive happenings and effects along the way, but you’re consistently reminded of the dress at the heart of the film. Much of the events link back to it all through the delightfully kind actions and lens of Mrs Harris.

It may begin to feel slightly drawn out in the final stages but Mrs Harris Goes To Paris still deals with the dame effortlessly uncynical tones and themes as beforehand, led by a delightfully charming Lesley Manville who you simply want to see buy her dream dress.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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