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THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE (France)
Taxi driver Robert (Jacques Gamblin) and wife Marie-Jeanne (Zabou Breitman) are the parents of three children - the grungy Fleur (Déborah François), the hopelessly romantic Raphaël (Marc-André Grondin), and Albert (Pio Marmai), their eldest. Over a crucial 12 year period, some key events impact on the family's internal relationships - like Marie-Jeanne reading a shocking entry in her daughter's diary, Raphaël visiting his wine-adoring grandad and Albert leaving home.
Review by Louise Keller:
You need to look time in the face, grandfather, father and wine-lover Pierre Duval (Roger Dumas) says, as he watches the sand filtering slowly through the hour glass, while his family watches patiently. Through the elasticity of time, we meet the whole Duval family, as life evolves and turns unexpected corners. The joys of Rémi Bezançon's dense and ever-changing narrative lie in the different perspectives, the surprises and the sequence of events which can never be pre-arranged. This is a vibrant film filled with truths of everyday life, when communication, misunderstandings, circumstances and emotions mesh together like a single heartbeat.
Under the opening credits, we see a montage of images that reflect the life and times of a family: a pregnant woman, a baby, children, family events, frivolity at the beach. But it is not until we get to know each member of the family that these images have any significance. The narrative describes the ever-changing lives of three generations whose emotional states and experiences are as volatile as the tide. We are there as the family dog is put down, the father tries to give up smoking, the daughter shares confidences in biology class, there's an air-guitar competition, meeting the right person, smoking a joint, boys in rock bands, a protective brother, weekly wine tastings, sleeping with a stranger, an apocalyptic wedding and romance at unexpected times.
A family is important, says Jacques Gamblin's Robert Duval, son, father, husband and taxi driver. Bezançon's film explores what makes a family - the good, the bad and the ugly. It's an absorbing ride as we journey the ups and downs and get to care about the people we meet. All the performances are wonderful and zing with authenticity. Jacques Gamblin as the son who never understood his father; Zabou Breitman as the wife and mother who rediscovers herself; Déborah François as the rebellious teen jolted into common sense; Marc-André Grondi's long-haired college student with air-guitar aspirations; Pio Marmaï's plastic surgeon son and Roger Dumas as the matriarch with the enviable cellar who keeps his heart locked. Soak up every tiny moment, Bezançon seems to be saying. After all, things can never be the same again.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Charting the ebb and flow of a middle class French family, Rémi Bezançon's film is a patchy affair, much like life itself, I suppose, with its ups and downs, its highs and its lows. Although there is nothing arresting in the story and most of it seems remarkably familiar to us with grown up children, the film engages with its veracity and its sensitive portrayal of the clashes and resolutions that many families must endure. Of course, the peculiarities and specifics of this family are unique; each character is complete and different, well defined and performed.
Jacques Gamblin is Robert Duval (only one 'l' unlike his actor namesake) a career cabbie, although we hardly seem him at work till the last act. He's unambitious but not in a negative sense. He provides for his family and is content with his lot. It's an unusual central character for a film, in that respect. His wife Marie-Jeanne is more complex and more interesting, a mother who wants to retain her feminine allure - but her priority is her children. Children who stumble as they mature; Bezançon never judges them or any of his characters, and while there is seemingly little action, there is plenty of friction. The dynamics are provided by the relationships.
As time passes, we are given milestones, and some are more memorable than others; there is also much made of dogs and their lifespan, as if to underline the filmmaker's preoccupation with the relative point of view of the parents versus their children as they mature.
In a way, the film is an ode to parenting, taken at a mature and sophisticated level. The pains and joys are represented well, without fanfare or histrionics, but with enough detail to give us insight and some understanding. While you could argue that the ending is a bit manipulative, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with it. Life never goes quite as you want it to - at least not in my experience.
First Published in the Sun-Herald.
FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, THE (M)
Le premier jour du reste de ta vie
CAST: Jacques Gamblin, Zabou Breitman, Déborah François, Marc-André Grondin, Pio Marmai, Roger Dumas, Cécile Cassel, Stanley Weber
PRODUCER: Eric Altmeyer, Nicolas Altmeyer
DIRECTOR: Rémi Bezançon
SCRIPT: Rémi Bezançon
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Antoine Monod
EDITOR: Sophie Reine
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Maamar Ech-Cheikh
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 12, 2010