On My Way is, primarily, a meandering road movie, an odyssey that wanders through rural France, borne on the back of its legendary lead—the silver-screen sex symbol Catherine Deneuve. Deneuve (now 70) plays Bettie, a former “Miss Brittany” and struggling restaurateur trying to piece together happiness out of her shattered life. When Bettie discovers that her lover has left her—and his wife—for a younger woman, she loses herself for a while. Her tailspin leads her on a directionless goose chase across the countryside, with stops everywhere from dingy bars to posh hotels and life events from casual sex to reconnections with estranged family members.
Director: Emmanuelle Bercot
Producers: Christine De Jekel, Oliver Delbosc, Marc Missonnier
Writers: Emmanuelle Bercot, Jerôme Tonnerre
Cinematographer: Guillaume Shiffman
Editor: Julien Leloup
Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Nemo Schiffman, Gérard Garouste, Camille, Claude Gensac
Premiere: February 15, 2013 – Berlin International Film Festival
US Theatrical Release: March 14, 2014
US Distributor: Cohen Media Group
All of this is prefaced by an invitation for Bettie to join the other 1969 Miss France contestants for a calendar shoot for charity, a prospect that does not seem to interest Bettie at all. Yet somewhere in her directionless wanderings, she is compelled to attend. The intermittent hour and a half of screen time seems to conspire to get her to that shoot, but why that matters or how it plays into the plot is unclear. Like all of the little bumps in Bettie’s road—from her choice to sleep with a creepy young man at a bar to picking up her estranged grandson to accompany her on the road—Bettie seems distant and uninterested, as if everything is happening to someone else.
The soundtrack is similarly disjointed, a panoply of contemporary American pop—its weird insertion feels like a deliberate attempt to contemporize an ambling story. The result is mildly compelling. Deneuve has lost her beauty pageant looks in the last fifty years, but she still has a powerful on-screen magnetism and an unassailable air of cool. While Emmanuelle Bercot’s concept, direction, and screenplay all do little to impress, she chose wisely in her star. Deneuve—despite her unexcitable demeanor—could carry just about any screenplay.
The curious thing here is why she bothered. No doubt, Deneuve could have found a better outlet for her spring of talent. Still, her performance is a joy to watch (and the only pearl in this purposeless endeavor). At the end of two hours, little seems to have changed—though Bettie has had a few touchstone interactions, her attitude towards life remains a careful balance between Deneuve’s inherent grace and a bone-deep indifference.