Life of Riley

Movies, Comedy
3 out of 5 stars
Life of Riley

Shot when the director was 91 and finished just before he died in March, Alain Resnais’s third adaptation of an Alan Ayckbourn play is his gentlest attempt at using the artifice of theater to affirm the reality of imagination. Suggesting that life is but a long rehearsal for a play that no one will ever see, Life of Riley follows three bickering couples (performed by a who’s who of Resnais’s favorite actors, including wife Sabine Azéma) as they prepare to stage an amateur production of a different Ayckbourn comedy. The terminally ill George Riley never appears onscreen 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 Resnais die-hards, Life of Riley nevertheless provides its own context. Confined to gleefully artificial sets—introduced with scene-setting watercolor paintings instead of establishing shots—Resnais’s breezy farewell doesn’t just blur the line between art and reality, it renders the distinction irrelevant. Only death remains absolute.

By: David Ehrlich

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Release details

Rated: N/R
Release date: Friday October 24 2014
Duration: 108 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Alain Resnais
Screenwriter: Alain Resnais, Laurent Herbiet, Jean-Marie Besset
Cast: Sabine Azéma
Michel Vuillermoz
Caroline Sihol
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