Review: The Women On The 6th Floor


Directed by: Philippe Le Guay
Written by:Philippe Le Guay, Jerome Tonnerre
Starring: Fabrice Luchini, Sandrine Kiberlain, Natalia Verbeke, Carmen Maura, Lola Duenas, Berta Ojea
Released: December 15, 2011
Grade: B+

The Women On The 6th Floor is a nice, light-weight French romance set in the early 1960s.  Jean-Louis (Luchini) and his wife, Suzanne (Kiberlain), live in a spacious Parisian apartment in a well-to-do neighbourhood.  He makes a living as a financial planner and whilst she keeps herself busy with numerous social engagements.

So who is it that resides on the 6th floor?  The film’s title refers to the small team of maids who service the apartment building and live in a cramped set of rooms on the top level.  It’s nothing flash but these women have transformed it into their own fun sanctuary.  None of the residents dare enter this “poor” part of the building and the maids are free to spend their spare time gossiping about the residents below.

The arrival of a new Spanish maid named Maria (Verbeke) sparks a curious sequence of events.  Jean-Louis develops a soft spot for Maria and the two frequently chat about her background and plans for the future.  In fact, Jean-Louis starts becoming friendly with all the maids!  He finds them more interesting and more energetic than his worrying wife and his stuffy work colleagues.

As you can imagine, this doesn’t sit too well with Suzanne.  She can’t understand why her husband is spending so much time with these lowly servants and why he is going out of his way to improve their living conditions.  It draws her to a false conclusion that threatens to undermine their marriage.

I wasn’t 100% sold on the ending but this is an enjoyable film that struck a cord with French audiences when it was released back in February.  It spent 7 weeks inside the top 10 spurred on by strong word of mouth.  It’s not hard to see why.  Fabrice Luchini (Potiche) is immensely likeable as the film’s shy leading man and the chatty maids have a humorous, cheeky disposition.

Writer-director Philippe Le Guay and co-writer Jerome Tonnerre also deserve praise for the way they have delicately balanced comedy with drama.  The story is never too heavy and it’s the kind of movie I’d recommend to a friend on a Sunday afternoon to put them in a good mood for the work week ahead.  Also worth a mention is Jorge Arriagada’s upbeat score which perfectly suits the film’s tone.

Sneaking into Australian cinemas just before the Boxing Day rush, The Women On The 6th Floor is a movie you should make time for.