Children of the Marshland, The

Director: Jean Becker

Awash in memorable characters winningly portrayed, Children of the Marshland is an utterly satisfying, old-fashioned tale of simple pleasures, good manners and strong allegiances told with a sure hand. This story of one decisive summer in the early ’30s follows a cross section of individuals, some of whom live on fish, frogs and odd jobs in modest cabins on a marsh, and some of whom live in style in the neighbouring town. Narrator Cri-cri, who has two brothers, is the 5-year old daughter of marsh dweller riton (Jacques Villeret), a good-hearted fellow who can always do with a glass of wine. Or two. Or three. Riton stills pines for his first wife, who ran off more than 10 years ago. Although he remarried, his real source of companionship is self-sufficient Garris (Jacques Gambin), who stumbled through the region after World War 1 and stayed on. Garris finds his head turned by Marie (Isabelle Carre), maid to the family in town.
Turned loose with solid material, the actors – proven talents all – are splendid across the board. Andre Dussollier is a delight as Amedee, a modest bachelor and bibliophile who lives in a room in town, loves the jazz records a friend sends him from Chicago and relies on his friend from the marsh for great adventures. Veteran Michel Serrault plays Mr. Richard, dubbed Pepe by his friends, who spent his first 40 years in a cabin on the marsh, scrounged scrap metal with his trusty horse and somehow rose to running a major metal works. Gisele Casadesus plays to perfection the sprightly widow Mrs. Mercier, Pepe’s neighbour, and former soccer star Eric Cantona is well cast in his strongest role to date as Jo Sardi, a boxing champ forced to forfeit his title after he’s locked up for trashing a drinking establishment.
The film sports a direct, often sun-bathed style, lots of intimate close-ups and an all-pervasive sense of life being lived at a humane pace.

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