Shot when the director was 91 and finished just before he died in March 2014, this gentle comedy is Alain Resnais’s third adaptation of an Alan Ayckbourn play.
Suggesting that life is but a long rehearsal for a performance no one will ever see, it follows three bickering couples (performed by Resnais’s favourite actors, including his wife Sabine Azéma) as they prepare to stage an amateur production of a different Ayckbourn comedy. The terminally ill George Riley never appears on screen but is so often the topic of his friends’ marital spats that he manages to become the most fun character of all (save perhaps an animatronic mole).
While most of the film’s pleasures will be reserved for hardcore Resnais fans, ‘Life of Riley’ nevertheless provides its own context. Confined to gleefully artificial sets –introduced with scene-setting watercolour paintings – Resnais’s breezy farewell doesn’t just blur the line between art and reality, it renders the distinction irrelevant.