An eccentric riches-to-rags story makes the premise of The Good Life . Mette Beckman, and her daughter Anne come from a wealthy background, but they have now lost all their fortune, and are forced to live modestly in a shared apartment in Portugal. Director Eva Mulvad chronicles their daily activities, interspersing the present-day narrative with the sunny, idyllic footage of the Beckman family videos from the good old days.

Throughout the film, the mother-daughter duo mostly spend their time drinking fine wine, reminiscing about the past, and arguing languidly, without raising their voices. They are unwilling to completely give up on their comforts and pretentions, or to try something new. At 56, Anne has never had a job, and she is extremely reluctant to try to get one ““ despite the fact that her years of elite education and fluency in five languages would probably come in handy somewhere. Anne insists that she is much too good for regular employment, and so she and her mother continue to stay home and get on each other’s nerves.

For a while, the personalities in this film seem a little larger-than-life; a little too strange for reality. You’d think they were created for a show like Arrested Development , or that they’re hamming it up for the camera. Then there comes a moment when you begin to empathize with them; to understand their struggles a little better. You see how their spoiled upbringing puts them at a serious disadvantage in a world where they no longer have any financial security. Growing up in the parallel reality of wealth and luxury has indeed given them a skewed perception of how life works, and left them in a child-like state. The circumstances and accommodations that would seem fairly comfortable for most people are stifling to the Beckmans.

I found it to be the best kind of setup works in favour of this film; it draws you in with what seems like absurd comedy, and, as it goes on, helps you to understand the people it portrays as human beings rather than caricatures. Once I really got a sense of how helpless the Beckmans are, I found myself wishing they could be happier and more at ease in their surroundings. It feels like it would really be better for everyone involved if they existed in their comfortable bubble, instead of bumbling around in the real world with the rest of us.

The Good Life is a film that makes you both happy and sad, and the central figures manage to remain sympathetic and likeable despite all their bratty antics. I found their personalities quite memorable, and would definitely recommend getting to know them through this film. You’ll probably end up rooting for them as they try to make the most of their situation, and perhaps you’ll even muse on the subject of appreciating life.

The Good Life is playing as part of Hot Docs on Monday, May 2nd at 9:00 pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox; Wednesday, May 4th at 10:45 am and Sunday May 8th at 9:00 pm at Isabel Bader Theater.