Anyone looking for a respite from big summer blockbuster extravaganzas should check out the charming dramedy Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris.
Set in 1957, the film (directed by Anthony Fabian) follows Mrs. Harris, a London cleaning lady (played by Lesley Manville). Her husband has long been missing in action from World War II. She receives notice confirming that he was killed in action. While dealing with that trauma, the thoroughly working class Harris decides she wants to travel to Paris to use her savings to purchase a haute couture Dior gown. Through a variety of ways, she is able to scrape up enough money for the trip. Once she's there, her kindness and cheery optimism wins over most of the people she encounters at Dior.
There is not much in the way of plot, so the film's quality hinges greatly on Manville's performance. If she gave an average performance, the movie might have come off a little bland. For it to work, the viewer has to be completely won over by Mrs. Harris in the same way most of the film's supporting cast are won over by her. Thankfully, Manville delivers. She's an actress casual American moviegoers may not be familiar with, but arthouse and British cinema aficionados will recognize her from a number of Mike Leigh films (Another Year, All or Nothing). And she's terrific here.
Manville does very well to convey the pain and loneliness underneath Mrs. Harris' cheerful exterior. It's not that her kindness is a facade; it's genuine, but it's something she clearly works at because she's also been ignored and overlooked for much of her life. It would be easy for a person in her position to slide into bitterness and resentment. Yet she still keeps treating the people she encounters with respect and dignity. While the stories and characters may seem dissimilar on the surface, people who enjoy Apple TV's Ted Lasso because of its emphasis on a character's dogged pursuit of kindness despite the world's insults and hardships will likely find plenty to appreciate here.