Until his passing last year, French director Alain Resnais had a celebrated career spanning seven decades. Undoubtedly, his most fertile period was in the late ’50s/early ’60s. However, he continued to make interesting and challenging films throughout. His first film, Hiroshima mon amour, along with Last Year in Marienbad and Muriel, established him as one of the leading lights in French cinema. Often associated with the Left Bank movement, he moved away away from the political towards investigating the relationship between cinema and other cultural forms in the latter decades. Life of Riley, Resnais’ last film, tackles Alan Ayckbourn’s play of the same name.
When George Riley is given 6 months to live, three couples take the news badly. Jack (Michel Vuillermoz) is George’s best friend and is devastated by the news, whilst his wife, Tamara (Caroline Silhol), tries to comfort him. Despite Jack’s best attempts, Monica (Sandrine Kiberlain) refuses to return to he husband’s side, as she’s now living with her farmer, Simeon (André Dussollier). Whilst Colin (Hippolyte Girardot) is slightly perplexed at how badly Kathryn (Sabine Azéma) takes the news. They decide to involve George in their local amateur dramatics production to raise his spirits, but as rehearsals proceed old passions begin to stir.
Life of Riley is a difficult play to translate to film. Set in four different gardens in Yorkshire, Resnais uses pictures and the depiction of travel to represent the distance between them. Unfortunately, he’s not entirely successful in the adaptation, losing some of the light humour in the process. It doesn’t quite work with the changing of locations. However, Life of Riley is an entertaining big screen entry for one of Ayckbourn’s most loved play.
Life of Riley is out in cinemas on Friday.