Mrs Harris Goes to Paris is as much of a confection as the dresses at its centre.
Every moment is garlanded with a level of cliche which would be difficult to stomach if the narrative wasn’t being guided by the seasoned hands of Lesley Manville.
Manville plays our ever so ‘umble titular charlady mourning a husband lost in the war, cleaning for clients who are dismissive, deceitful or downright tight.
But one day her eyes alight on a glorious garment in the wardrobe of one recalcitrant m’lady and learns the object of her covetousness is Dior haute couture.
Her life turns on a sixpence (not nearly enough to cover the £500 cost of a similar handmade number) and she decides she must have a dress like it and she will take herself to Paris to get one. She is then the recipient of so many favourable fiscal events in one single sequence of serendipity that your disbelief needs not to be suspended so much as strapped to a rocket and fired off into unexplored areas of deepest space.
She heads off to Paris, cash in suitcase, where she instantly befriends a cheery French drunk who escorts her to Dior’s door and she fronts up the snobs, wins over the workers and gets to say Oui to The Dress.
Along the way she clears the path for a pair of star-crossed lovers, leads a strike and encourages the potential saviour of Dior’s business to make his case to the boss.
In truth it’s nothing but nonsense but yet it is such beautifully-presented nonsense with an almost fairytale feel that you half expect a Gallic squirrel or perhaps of pair of Parisian pigeons to lend a hand in one scene where Mrs Harris deploys her formidable cleaning skills to sort out the home of her host (who is later revealed as devastatingly handsome – Plain Jane Superbrain style – by the simple removal of his glasses).
Without Manville it would be a souffle, destined to sink instantly on removal from the oven, as it is it provides close to two hours of welcome whimsy, a respite, as far from the travails of our current day to day reality as it’s possible to get.
Mrs Harris goes to Paris is screening at Plymouth Arts Cinema from Friday 14 – Thursday 20th October.
Reviewed by Jemina Laing