Film Review by Kam Williams
Siblings Attend to Ailing Dad in Bittersweet French Drama
Luc (Jeremie Elkaim) and Romain (Pio Marmai) might be siblings but they’re as different as night and day. The former is a struggling screenwriter who has never amounted to much. His relatively-boring brother, on the other hand, is a straitlaced nerd who’s been doing his best to move up the corporate ladder by sitting behind a desk in a tie and jacket.
The two are also unalike when it comes to romance. Flamboyantly gay Luc has a life mate, Adrian (Willy Cartier), that he’s thinking about marrying, while heterosexual Romain’s lack of a personality has prevented him finding a woman willing to share a relationship.
Unfortunately, they’ve been emotionally estranged since childhood, when domineering Luc used to tease and torture his younger brother. That mistreatment gave rise to a tension that has persisted to the present, which is where we find both vying for the approval of their long-divorced parents.
Abusive Georges (Eddy Mitchell) had apparently abused masochistic Danielle (Chantal Lauby) until his long-suffering wife couldn’t take it any longer. Since separating, they’ve remained cordial only for the sake of their sons. After all, it’s hard to forgive a husband who flagrantly frequented prostitutes.
Lately, the 65 year-old patriarch has been behaving erratically, and was subsequently diagnosed by his doctor as slowly succumbing to dementia. This means he needs more support from flaky, favored son Luc who still lives at home.
However, when that isn’t forthcoming, Romain dutifully takes time from his busy schedule to attend to his dad’s healthcare needs. And when worse comes to worst, he prevails upon a nursing home administrator (Charlotte de Turckheim) he knows to expedite Georges admission to the facility she manages.
The family crisis also puts the siblings in close proximity of one another on a daily basis again, which gives them a chance to address their unresolved rivalry. Will they bury the hatchet for the sake of their ailing father?
That is the raison d’etre of Grand Depart, a character-driven drama marking the impressive directorial debut of scriptwriter Nicolas Mercier (My Worst Nightmare). The film features a compelling end of life theme similar to the Oscar Best Foreign Film-winner Amour, though this picture’s embattled protagonists aren’t nearly as empathetic or embraceable.
Basically, a bittersweet tale about a couple of polar-opposites endeavoring to bury the hatchet for the sake of their rapidly-expiring dad.
Very Good (3 stars)
In French with subtitles
Running time: 80 minutes
Distributor: Rialto Premieres