The title comes from the name of a street in Paris.
Mado is an old woman who lives there. A chance encounter with Isabelle, a 40-something business woman leads to friendship.
Isabelle finds Mado living in deep, miserable poverty and tries to help. Mado — of course — is proud. She doesn’t want help but accepts it anyway.
There isn’t much syrup in writer/director Rene Feret’s film. That is good. Mado is not likable or sympathetic. Like the characters in their lives, neither Mado nor Isabelle will let you in.
Big gaps are missing on what drives the uneasy friendship of these two women. The relationship just evolved, and that’s all.
That wondering helps the movie work.
There is also a subtle message. Old people — even in France — are discarded by society. They are ghosts in a corner. Some, such as Mado, live in absolute squalor; hungry, cold and sick. You admire the compassion Isabelle shows for a woman whose actions don’t warrant sympathy.
Rue du Retrait is a character study about their relationship based on a book by Doris Lessing, The Diary of a Good Neighbor. While the previously mentioned gaps help the movie, they are also what hurt Feret’s story.
There is a sense that you are missing something, that the excluded information would make this compelling story even more compelling.
In the end, I wanted more from this finale to the Battelle Film Club's Fall 2009 series.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Not rated, probably PG-13. It plays Friday, Jan. 29 only at 8 p.m. at the Battelle Auditorium.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.