The Thirteenth Annual Cinéfranco Film Festival
Une semaine sur deux (et la moitié des vacances scolaires)
Directed by Ivan Calbérac
Though nicely acted and well conceived, Une semaine sur deux (et la moitié des vacances scolaires) has been saddled with an almost egregiously deliberate pace that essentially holds the viewer at arm's length virtually from start to finish. The movie follows affable 12-year-old Léa (Bertille Chabert) as she and her little brother (Jean-Baptiste Fonck's Maxime) attempt to cope with the divorce of their parents (Mathilde Seigner's Marjorie and Bernard Campan's François), with the episodic movie subsequently detailing the three characters' efforts at moving on with their respective lives. Filmmaker Ivan Calbérac admittedly does an effective job of establishing an atmosphere of easy-going authenticity, with the writer/director's slice-of-life sensibilities enhanced by the uniformly naturalistic performances and ongoing emphasis on the everyday exploits of the various characters. The problem is, then, that none of this is terribly interesting; Calbérac proves unable to infuse any of the movie's situations or scenarios with elements designed to capture (and sustain) the viewer's interest, and there inevitably does reach a point at which the relentlessly uneventful vibe becomes oppressive. And although the narrative has been sprinkled with a few compelling sequences here and there - ie François and Marjorie's new boyfriend drunkenly bond over their mutual irritation with Marjorie's aloofness - Une semaine sur deux (et la moitié des vacances scolaires) is ultimately felled by Calbérac's inability to transform any of the characters into wholeheartedly compelling figures (which only exacerbates the inherently low-key nature of the subject matter).
Directed by Bernard Bellefroid
Deliberately paced yet rewarding, La régate follows a moody teen (Joffrey Verbruggen's Alex) as he attempts to return to his school's rowing team after a mysterious two month absence - with the character's ongoing problems at home, particularly his relationship with his abusive father (Thierry Hancisse's Thierry), inevitably threatening his chances of success at a pivotal race. Director Bernard Bellefroid has infused La régate with an unabashedly laid-back sensibility that proves effective at establishing an authentic atmosphere, admittedly, yet it's just as clear that the filmmaker's almost unreasonably relaxed modus operandi initially prevents the viewer from wholeheartedly connecting with the material. There does reach a point, however, at which the film essentially morphs into an agreeable coming-of-age story, as Bellefroid places an increasingly prominent emphasis on the central character's efforts at dealing with a myriad of problems (ie Alex's troubled dynamic with his pop complicates his relationships with his competitive rowing partner, tough-as-nails coach, and on-again-off-again girlfriend). Verbruggen's stirring turn as the tortured protagonist surely plays an instrumental role in the movie's turnabout, and although Hancisse is equally affecting as Alex's alcoholic father, Bellefroid is never quite able to get inside the character's head to a sufficiently satisfying extent (ie what makes this guy do the things he does?) It's also worth noting that despite the film's proliferation of inspirational-sports-movie-type elements, La régate ultimately doesn't conclude quite the way one might have anticipated - which effectively cements its place as an intriguing piece of work that probably would've benefited from some judicious editing.
Dans tes bras
Directed by Hubert Gillet
Dans tes bras follows sullen teenager Louis (Martin Loizillon) as he embarks on a journey to find his birth mother after learning that he's adopted, with his efforts eventually leading him to a small village in the south of France. There, Louis quickly discovers the object of his interest (Michèle Laroque's Solange) working as a florist - though she immediately makes it quite clear that she wants absolutely nothing to do with him. The remainder of the proceedings follows Louis as he attempts to get to know Solange and discern her reasons for giving him up, with the thin narrative also including a tentative romance between Louis and a lonely local (Lola Naymark's Clémentine). Director and cowriter Hubert Gillet has infused Dans tes bras with an unreasonably deliberate pace that ultimately proves disastrous, as there is, as a result, never a point at which the viewer is able to work up even a hint of interest in Louis' ongoing efforts (with the character's rather off-putting demeanor effectively exacerbating this feeling). The similarly underdeveloped nature of the film's other primary figures ensures that one is periodically left baffled by their actions, with Solange's oddly belligerent behavior towards Louis undoubtedly the most obvious example of this (although, to be fair, her actions are ultimately explained by a third-act revelation that's hardly as surprising as Gillet clearly believes/wants it to be). It consequently goes without saying that the conclusion's emotional impact is non-existent, and although the movie does boast an atmosphere of authenticity, Dans tes bras primarily comes off as the sort of work that one admires more than one wholeheartedly enjoys.