GROCER'S SON, THE
When his father (Daniel Duval) has a heart attack and is hospitalised, thirty-year-old Antoine (Nicolas Cazalé) has to go back to the village in Provence helping his mother (Jeanne Goupil) and assume the lifestyle he thought he had shed, driving the family grocery cart from hamlet to hamlet, delivering supplies to the few remaining, mostly elderly inhabitants. Accompanied by Claire (Clotilde Hesme), a friend from Paris on whom he has a secret crush, Antoine resents being forced back to his father's orbit, and his brittle relationship with both his father and brother Francois (Stephan Guerin-Tillie) cause much conflict, while Francois has his own broken marriage to cope with. But gradually he warms up to his encounters with the villagers, while clumsily mishandling his budding relationship with Claire.
Review by Louise Keller:
It's never too late to change your life, says Clotilde Hesme's ebullient Claire who joins Antoine (Nicolas Cazalé) when he begrudgingly heads for the tranquil French countryside to help run his ailing father's grocery business. Claire is the catalyst in the richly observant film in which a rebellious son and his dysfunctional family reach a turning point. Much of the joy of Eric Guirado's beautifully judged film lies in the way he allows us to become part of the characters' lives. There's a wonderful sense of place - it's as though we are there in the gently rolling hills of Provençe where the narrow, dusty roads turn as sharply as Antoine's emotional state.
When we meet Antoine in Paris, he is struggling with his life. He is short of money, hates working as a waiter and prowls longingly around studious Claire, hesitant to ask her out. At the hospital after his father's heart attack, we sense the family tension straight away, compounded when Antoine agrees to do the daily rounds of his father's travelling grocer's van in Provence. It is clear he has no people skills and is perpetually impatient as he berates the elderly customers for their indecision and casual approach to paying for their wares. But then Claire (Hesme is lovely), who has an infectious laugh and believes cottage cheese is but a footnote in cheese history, joins him on his daily outings and her enthusiasm rubs off. The locals respond accordingly as does the business - and Antoine.
I love the scenes in which Antoine's relationship with two regular customers develops as he struggles with his inner conflict. There's Paul Crauchet as the elderly père Clément who pays for his tinned peas with eggs (he has difficulty finding) and Liliane Rovère's Lucienne, an eccentric character with a sharp tongue and who is addicted to the bitter mud-like, alcoholic beverage, Fernet-Branca. Guirado allows the story to develop naturally and there is never a false moment. It's an enticing and joyous story about finding your way from the crossroads of life, and one that is guaranteed to put a skip in your step.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Eric Guirado's film is an engaging combination of coming of age, family drama and romance, with a teaspoon of Provencal remedies thrown in. It is as oblique as it is measured, and the central characters grow in depth with every scene. Nicolas Cazalé has the sulking good looks of a romantic lead, and his minimalist performance captures an Antoine whose aimlessness since storming out of the family home a decade earlier has taught him very little by way of people skills. It's the divorced Claire, superbly played by Clotilde Hesme, who helps him mature - as do events in the family, including a dramatic incident with his estranged brother.
Both Jeanne Goupil and Daniel Duval as the parents are delivered as fully rounded real people, with complex family emotions, while Stephan Guerin-Tillie is excellent as the still-angry brother, who is unravelling emotionally. But the film's air of absolute veracity is in great part due to the mostly walk-on parts by the locals, elderly men and women who bring a rich texture of humanity - not all sweet and tame, either - to the film's mood.
One of the star support roles is Lucienne, one of the clients on the grocery van's run, played by a vigorously sardonic Liliane Rovere, whose snappy exterior hides a mischievous sense of fun. The characters around the village and the glorious, understated countryside, all form a backdrop to the film's unassuming yet haunting story.
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GROCER'S SON, THE (M)
Fils de l'épicier, Le
CAST: Nicolas Cazalé, Clotilde Hesme, Jeanne Goupil, Daniel Duval, Stéphane Guérin-Tillié, Liliane Rovére,
PRODUCER: Milena Pylo, Gilles Sacuto
DIRECTOR: Eric Guirado
SCRIPT: Eric Guirado, Florence Vignon
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Laurent Brunet
EDITOR: Pierre Haberer
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Valérie Faynot
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Jump Street Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 2, 2008