(Ed. Note: This review was originally posted on April 28th, 2008, but the film opens in Minneapolis tomorrow and it deserves the spotlight again.)
I don't think I'm any form of synesthete, but I find that some films I see almost have a "taste" or "flavor" to them. Is that weird? Such was the case with The Grocer's Son (Le Fils de L'íepicier), a romantic dramedy by the young French writer/director Eric Guirado. Filmed primarily in the French countryside, it's a feast for the senses. You smell the summer air, hear nature's orchestra, and taste the fresh food. None of this has much to do with the story, but it shows the affectionate warmth Guirado has for all aspects of his film, including the characters.
Antoine (Nicolas Cazalé) is a self-centered bachelor who 10 years ago left his parents and his family grocery in Provence for the bright lights of Lyon. When his father suffers a heart attack, Antoine moves home for the summer to help his mother and drive the grocery-mobile on its daily route along the winding country roads in the south of France. Fortunately for him, his friend and secret crush, Claire (Clotilde Hesme), is looking for a secluded place to study for her graduate school exams, and accepts his offer to join him in Provence. What Antoine hopes will be a perfect summer soon turns sour as he faces boredom with his job, quarrels with his dysfunctional family, and frustration with the free-spirited Claire's disinterest in him, not to mention her unwavering plan to move to Spain at summer's end.
Guirado writes great comedy, relatable drama, and most importantly, likable characters - elements a lot of similar American films (Margot at the Wedding) are sorely lacking. Nobody's falling all over each other trying to be too witty and sarcastic, and there aren't outrageous situations (Little Miss Sunshine) that exist only for cheap comedy. In other words, we enjoy a fresh, believable version of what is, in essence, a really simple story. The acting is terrific across the board, wonderfully led by the tender and honest moments between Hesme and Cazalé, who bears an uncanny resemblance to fellow Frenchman Olivier Martinez (Unfaithful).
If you happen to be in the mood for a beautifully shot, skillfully acted and thoughtfully written film featuring a great soundtrack (and why wouldn't you be?), The Grocer's Son will leave you smiling. It was picked up by Film Movement last month for distribution, so keep an eye out for its availability in the next year.