Annie Girardot appeals to some filmgoers as the grand dame Margaret Rutherford used to do: You don't care what the movie's about. If she's in it, you'll see it.

Best known in America for her role as the "Dear Detective," the prolific Girardot has made more than 80 films.

Her latest released here, "La Vie Continue," is an "Unmarried Woman" of sorts: It deals with loss, loneliness and sexual advances, welcome and unwelcome.

But Girardot's Jeanne is widowed, not divorced, has three kids instead of one, and, also unlike "An Unmarried Woman," is going broke.

Jeanne typifies the housewife in her 40s who hasn't worked for years. After her husband's fatal heart attack, Jeanne finds a job wrapping packages in a department store. She describes the mourning time like this: "There's no future, only the present, and you're stuck in it."

She meets a divorced shopkeeper, played by Jean-Pierre Cassel, and falls in love despite herself -- only to discover he hasn't totally gotten over his wife.

Fortunately, her kids are uniformly understanding throughout. After leaving home to start a life of her own, the daughter becomes a good friend. The sons make a mess in the kitchen but clean up the next day and accent the effort with a rose.

Both boys are adorably angelic, striking an unrealistic note in an otherwise believable portrayal of her workaday life. Small details are moving, as when, for example, she must discard her husband's shaving things and remove his corduroy jackets from the closet.

One of the few surprises in her life is Max, her eventual employer, who owns a dress shop where she becomes salesperson and seamstress. Played by Pierre Dux, he's a sympathetic and amusing character who doesn't answer her questions about life but offers fatherly support.

She can't afford a feminist psychologist; she manages anyway. And, as Jeanne says to her young son, in the movies "The guy doesn't always marry the girl at the end."

Girardot is an everywoman. That's part of her appeal. Life goes on, and so does she. LA VIE CONTINUE -- At the K-B Janus.