Movies from Swank: Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

Will SorgEntertainment Columnist

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris was a film advertised by the movie theater I worked at over the summer. It was never shown at my theater, but our box office received plenty of phone calls from elderly people asking if the theater was showing it. I had to politely explain that we had other locations in the cities that were showing it, conversations which could have easily been avoided had their grandchildren taught them how to Google movie showtimes. It was a welcome change of pace from the endless Top Gun: Maverick questions. Later, I discovered that Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris was on Gustavus’ free streaming service, Swank. So, I had to see if the hype of roughly eight old people was justified. It kind of was. 

You have likely seen a version of Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, by which I mean you have likely seen a film about an older woman taking a leap of faith and achieving her dreams of a fulfilling life in her later years. Here, the titular Mrs. Harris is a cleaning lady living in 1950s London. Played by Lesley Manville, Ada Harris spends her days in contentment while she waits for her husband, an airforce pilot who went missing in World War II, to come home. When she sees a Dior dress in the house of one of her clients, she is inspired to raise enough funds to travel to France and purchase a dress of her own. 

Even with its simple, crowd-pleasing formula, the film is a fascinating work from independent filmmaker Anthony Fabian. It does not shy away from being cheesy, but in doing so there is a level of genuine fun that comes out of the film. Manville plays the role of a kind but naive working woman and supporting antagonist, Isabelle Huppert, both play their roles empathetically and wonderfully. As the film progresses, the audience also can find some genuine thematic resonance at play. The film is set during a garbage strike in France, which serves as a backdrop for Mrs. Harris to discover her inability to stand up for herself and a chance for her to grow out of that problem. 

I truly think there is something to be said about movies like Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris. They are unlikely to change your life or even be something you’ll watch more than once, but the simple joy of seeing someone likable and kind go through a journey of self-fulfillment feels undeniably good. In a time and place where everything seems to be going wrong and much of our media consists of world-ending threats or traumatic events, it’s nice to watch a movie as simple and fun as this. Maybe the older generation is onto something when they always go out to see these kinds of movies.