Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

My Afternoons with Margueritte

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 19th June 2011

By now, Gerard Depardieu needs no introduction to English-speaking audiences.  A heavyweight (in more than one sense) of the French acting fraternity, he seems to turn up in every second French film we get.  He can turn his hand to cops, buffoons and lounge singers, each time disguising his enormous charisma and tell-tale visage sufficiently to allow us to lose ourselves in his latest character.

And so it goes for Germain, an illiterate, sweet-natured man who lives under the bullying eye and crippling memory of this mother, and spends his days odd-jobbing and growing vegetables.  Germain falls into a kindly friendship with the elderly Margueritte (played by 96-year old Gisèle Casadesus).  He drinks with his friends, loves his unexpectedly comely girlfriend, and slowly starts to learn new words.

As in Conversations with my Gardener, this film relies mostly on the differences between the crass Germain and the erudite Margueritte, their gentle interactions imparting knowledge and unexpected insights designed to give us pause for thought.  Director Jean Becker (who also made Conversations) has crafted a film out of bright characterisation and some shocking flashbacks, preserving it from farce but not going very deep.

It’s enjoyable enough, though some may feel the bigger issues are ignored.

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