It's been 50 years since Jacques Demy's deliriously lovely "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" introduced the deliriously lovely Catherine Deneuve to the world, establishing her as one of the more ravishing women ever to appear on screen and sparking a career that would establish her as one of its better actresses (see "Repulsion," "Indochine," "Les Voleurs," "Potiche"). So it's tempting to view "On My Way" as a kind of actorly roman à clef for Deneuve, being as it is about a fading beauty on a journey of review. Do not, however, give real life too much credit.
The truth is, Deneuve is more natural, unflappable and supremely charming than she's been in many of her films, as Bettie, a former Miss Brittany who lives with her mother (Claude Gensac), runs a local restaurant and is brought up short by a friend's revelation: Bettie's longtime married lover has taken up with a 25-year-old. She bolts from her bistro during the lunchtime rush, and embarks on a bittersweet trip through rural France, and some of the previously unexplored landscape of her mind.
Bettie's travels involve tiny Gallic towns and a series of run-ins with locals cast by director Emmanuelle Bercot with nonactors with whom Denueve shows a spirited, encouraging comfort and a gift for the brief, enchanting encounter. The most winning of all, though, is her pas de deux with her grandson, Charly (Bercot's son, Nemo Schiffman), a prepubescent belter of show tunes. He doesn't exactly hide his light under an umbrella. But neither does he outshine the queen.
PLOT A former beauty queen, cast aside by her lover, embarks on a journey of rediscovery. Unrated (adult content)
CAST Catherine Deneuve, Camille, Nemo Schiffman
BOTTOM LINE A handsome vehicle for Denueve, who drives it with elegant sanfroid. In French with English subtitles.