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THE GROCER’S SON

Director: ERIC GUIRADO

FRANCE • 2007 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 35MM • 96 MIN


ITS RUGGED INTERIOR BAKING UNDER A SUMMER SUN, PROVENCE’S POSTCARD LOOKS HIDE A TOUGHER DAILY REALITY, BUT IF THE LIFE OF THE SCATTERED LOCALS IS FAR FROM EASY, IT CERTAINLY HAS ITS REWARDS IN ERIC GUIRADO’S AFFECTIONATE, INVOLVING CHARACTER STUDY.

Not that you could tell this to sullen-faced Nicolas Cazale, the son who left the family’s rural grocery for the rewards of city life. Since his surfeit of ‘attitude’ has made it difficult for him to hold down a job ever since, when his dad (Daniel Duval) lands in hospital after a health scare, junior agrees to help his mum by looking after the shop — and taking on the grocery van that’s a lifesaver for the old folks up in the hills. At first, it’s service with a snarl since he looks like he’d rather be anywhere else than back home — where old resentments die hard — but the arrival of a friend from the city (Clotilde Hesme) on whom he’s long had romantic designs, could prove a turning point.

Writer-director Guirado spent a full eighteen months on the road with various salesmen in the south of France, which is surely why his film is such a balanced and persuasive portrait of country life. Profit alone can’t sustain businesses like this, but, as Cazale’s protagonist begins to discover, there’s connection with the community which has much to offer those with the compassion to appreciate it. Cazale’s excellent central performance is a slow-burning affair, perfectly matched to the patient direction, which allows the careful build-up of so many humane little moments to work their quiet magic. Rather lovely. — Trevor Johnston.

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