It has become a new tradition at my household to watch a movie on New Year’s Day. Last year it was Life of Pi, this year it’s The Gilded Cage (La cage dorée). I had wanted to watch something light to start the year with and besides, I have heard good things about the movie.
The Gilded Cage centres around José (Joaquim de Almeida) and Maria Ribeiro (Rita Blanco). José works as a foreman in a construction company for 32 years whereas Maria has been working as the concierge at the same apartment complex for roughly the same period of time. Both take pride in their work and consider work as part of their life. When an unexpected inheritance falls into José’s lap, they’re faced with the dilemma of leaving all the work behind and returning to Portugal, or forfeiting the inheritance and enjoying their working life in France. Adding to the complexity, both their children are very much French already and that their daughter is dating somebody that they had never suspected. When their bosses and friends find out about their possible return to Portugal, they try their best to persuade them to stay. For comical reliefs, there’s Maria’s sister who’s trying to open a restaurant – and feels betrayed that Maria hasn’t told her directly about the inheritance – as well as their family friend Rosa, a busybody with a good heart.
I want to like The Gilded Cage a lot more – but I feel that it’s flat-lining most of the time. As a migrant, I get the issue of wanting to escape a life of hardwork and a place to call our own back ‘home’. However, I just feel that it could have been explored and presented better. There are some funny moments, but some of the light moments feel forced – I certainly don’t warm to Rosa’s character for example. To me, the pulse of the movie is only felt about three-quarters of the duration – by then, I have already reserved judgment of The Gilded Cage. It is a crowd-pleaser (and tries very hard to please) and I bet it’s probably very popular among the Portuguese migrants in France. What I would remember from the movie is the heartfelt fado song that is played towards the end of the movie and the message that we should never lose our character and heritage wherever we settle down – away from our homeland.