Dir: Martial Fougeron. France. 2006. 90mins
Martial Fougeron's modest family drama went almostunnoticed during the San Sebastian film festival but certainly ended the eventcausing a storm of controversy when it was declared the ex aequo winner of theGolden Shell, a decision that was greeted by boos by some critics. An intimatefamily drama focusing on a domineering mother, played with a vengeance byNathalie Baye, and her indolent family which eventually fight back, the filmrisks losing its audience by playing all its cards too early. A better fit forTV screens than theatrical ones, the San Sebastian award will generateexpectations that will remain unfulfilled by this disappointing film.
Baye, playing against type,is an apparently happily married woman whose academic husband (Gourmet) isremote and absent. With her older daughter (Kremer) in high school, herattentions are focused on her angelic younger son, Julien (Sevaux), whopatiently submits to her stern pronouncements about everything that affects him,from the shirts he wears to the relationship he begins with a girl. Somerespite is offered by visits to his kindly liberal granny (Riva), butotherwise, there is very little sunshine in the young adolescent's life. Hisfather refuses to listen to his calls for help; he even tries the police and asuicide attempt before the family finally reacts to save him.
Working with concepts ratherthan characters and cliches rather than inspiration, Fougeron deals withserious problems in a pedestrian fashion. The motivation for the mother'smonstrously egotistic conduct beg further exploration - is it because of thelack of physical intimacy with her husband, or because of sexual attractionbetween mother and son (there are hints of Louis Malle's Le Souffle Au Coeur at one point), or because of perfectly understandablesymptoms of empty nest syndrome' These are all possible explanations but noneis dealt with in depth.
With her dour, stubborn anduncompromising presence, Baye does not contribute much to the role, and it isonly a pity that the Gourmet's potential is not exploited more.
Moby Dick Films (Fr)
Celluloid Dreams (33) 1 49 70 03 70