But Vernoux knows how to offset pathos with comedy, and this approach is an effective prelude for Caroline, whose journey will be one, as is the tendency in this kind of story to learn that her life is not to be dismissed, but embraced and appreciated. Her life is constructed from a series of elongated moments that are securely threaded together. But as is the habitual tendency Caroline feels the need to risk everything to garner the excitement of the moment over the security of longevity.
The casting of the love triangle is meticulous, as husband Philippe (Patrick Chesnais),and lover Julien (Laurent Lafitte) echo the two approaches to life – one reckless, and the other dependable. If Bright Days Ahead is about the family dynamic it is equally about the struggle in those turning points, though first and foremost it is about the need for meaning and purpose. In this respect Caroline’s affair mirrors our vulnerability and our propensity for self-harm in these turning points of life. But her present whim connects to a past whim, and brings up the relationship between the past and the present which is a subtle theme within Vernoux’s drama.
The past is a fleeting reference in Bright Days Ahead; a source of angst and discontent. But the focus remains on the present moments, and those future present moments that are set to unfold. The question at the heart of the film is of the preference between the life of the moment verses the elongated moments that feel worn but can be relied upon to pave a path into the twilight. It is a question that resonates with strength, and which deduces that there are two kinds of people in this world. There are those who can live on a whim, and there are those who cannot. Caroline’s journey is a study of the fall into a series of whims, and a journey towards what will hopefully be a return to happiness. But as with all drama the characters dance on a knife edge and Caroline is by no means an exception to the rule.
Unlike films such as Billy Wilder’s The Apartment and Alexandros Avranas’ Miss Violence, which feel like a single chapter at the end of which the credits roll up screen in place of the flick of the page; Bright Days Ahead starts towards the end of one chapter, and closes with the opening sentences of the chapter that follows the one we have just read. Caroline’s story is therefore not an original tale, rather it is Vernoux and Ardant’s take on this archetypal character and narrative. Bright Days Ahead is a familiar story told with a pleasant melody, and a fine central performance from Ardant. Vernoux’s precision infuses it with a charm and insightful edge that understands that conversation and interaction gives a gravitas to the melodrama that should only ever follow. It presents us with a love triangle that has emotional depth, and presents Caroline who is flirting with a second potentially life changing whim with an emotional quandary.
The stage of Bright Days Ahead is those rainy months, where one waits for the sun to creep out from behind the rain clouds. Hence Bright Days Ahead is a fitting title for a story about one woman’s transition at a turning point of her life where time is no longer her enemy, but her anchor.