One sunny day in the French village of Salon, 18-year-old Patricia (played by Astrid Berges-Frisbey) brings lunch to her father working nearby. On the way to him, she meets a brash young man who is like no-one she has ever met before. He is Jaques Mazel (by Nicolas Duvauchelle), the son of the village general storekeeper. Patricia knows his family are much better off than hers – her father, Pascal Amoretti (by Daniel Auteuil) is a well-digger and although he works hard, he could never earn enough to match the lifestyle of the Mazels. Nevertheless, Patricia is drawn to Jacques and he to her – against their better judgement. At the same time, Pascal’s employee, Felipe (by Kad Merad) tries to court Patricia. She is too polite to reject him but wants to see Jacques, so things get a bit busy. World War 1 breaks out and Jaques is shipped out of town at short notice, leaving the disillusioned Patricia behind to face her father and Jacques’ shocked parents (by Jean-Pierre Darroussin and Sabine Azéma), when the ill-fated liaison is discovered. It seems that love just doesn’t cross the great class divide … or does it?
This is a lovely movie – think of a Jane Austen drama set in France and you’ll get the idea. There are strong similarities – family honour, deep tradition, innocence based on propriety and class-based snobbery. I have seen Daniel Auteuil in several movies and he is always marvellous. He is the consummate Frenchman and he plays comedy so deadpan, it’s excellent. This effort is his directorial debut and he has made a great piece. It had the potential to go flat and fade as it told the story, but the marvellous performances of Auteuil, Kad Merad and the Mazel parents, Jean-Pierre Darroussin and Sabine Azéma, keep it going nicely. The wonderful French countryside is showcased beautifully. Daniel Auteuil has adapted this screenplay from the novel by Marcel Pagnol – it is a lovely, gentle movie.
Made in 2011. Directed by Daniel Auteuil