Film Review – My Afternoons with Margueritte (La Tête en friche)
My Afternoons with Margueritte (two Ts) is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time and arguably the best French movie I’ve ever seen. I don’t say this lightly, as I’ve watched numerous French films. It’s different than most of the ones I’ve seen, but it is a feel-good movie that I wasn’t expecting at all. The film stars Gérard Depardieu and Gisèle Casadesus, who play 100% believable small-town French folks who stumble upon a passion they both share.
Germain (Depardieu) is a 50-something-year-old small town farmer who lives with his mother. He grows crops in his garden at home and sells them in the local market. After work, he goes to a local café and drinks with his friends until his girlfriend gets off work. Margueritte (Casadesus) is a little old lady who comes to the park to feed the pigeons and read her books most days. They regularly run into each other around Germain’s lunch time and eventually strike up a conversation.
This simple conversation grows over time and, eventually, Margueritte reads him a few passages from her books—mainly classics. He has a knack for visualizing the words in his imagination and asks her to keep reading. She eventually reads a number of books to him. He uses some of his big words with his friends and they make fun of his new knowledge, since they only know him as a friendly oaf. Margueritte finds out Germain had a pretty rough childhood, since he doesn’t know who his father is, his mother’s boyfriends beat him, and he’s resigned himself to living his life as a dumb but gentle giant of a man.
Margueritte gives Germain a copy of a book of hers, and when he has trouble reading it himself, she gives him a dictionary. He has trouble with the dictionary, which ends up being quite amusing, so he gives it back to Margueritte. His relationship with Margueritte confuses Germain’s girlfriend at first, but once she realizes who he’s been spending all this time with, she gives it her blessing.
Margueritte develops some health issues and Germain is committed to helping her as much as possible. It is absolutely endearing and beautiful. The relationship between Germain and Margueritte is incredibly believable and is developed in a way not usually seen in film—in any language. The dialogue between the two is deep and touching and I heard a LARGE number of people tearing up in the audience in the theater. I admit, there was some dust in my own eye in a few scenes that caused some eye leakage.
You will not regret seeing this movie. Depardieu knocks this film out of the park and Casadesus makes you wish she were your very own grandmother. As we walked out of the theater, everyone that was leaving was talking about how brilliant the film was and was smiling from ear to ear. I won’t give away the ending of this film, but I will say that Jean Becker (the director) ended this movie the way he should have. I do not expect to see a film this good for many years. Bring your mother and father to this film. Bring your significant other. Bring anyone who loves classic literature or film of any genre. These actors and director deserve MUCH more than $10 per person for this film.
Final Grade: A++