Thirty-year-old Antoine (the very charismatic Nicolas Cazalé) left his family (and his issues with them) and their hilltop general store 10 years ago for the bright lights of the big city and comes back only when his father (Daniel Duval) suffers a massive heart attack and his mother (Jeanne Goupil) needs immediate help. His brother François (Stéphan Guérin-Tillié), the town hairdresser, has always stuck around, a fact that breeds resentment between the brothers. Sullen Antoine can barely stand to be in the same room his father, but he agrees to take over the family's mobile grocery van until Dad recovers. Their vitriolic disrespect for each other is hard to watch.
Antoine drives from scenic village to scenic village, stopping in town squares to sell items off the back of his truck to the aged locals, some of whom want endless credit and others who want to barter eggs for groceries. The impatient Antoine is having none of it, and the locals call him out for his rudeness and tell him he's nothing like his kind father. "Whatever" (in French), is his basic reply.
Luckily, he starts to lighten up when he is accompanied on his rounds by the charming Claire (Clotilde Hesme), a free-spirited friend visiting from the city who is a natural salesgirl and urges Antoine to relax and soak up the gorgeous atmosphere. He reminds her it's precisely this atmosphere from which he escaped years ago, but slowly he begins to appreciate not only the country lifestyle but also the vital role his family plays in taking care of the people who are utterly dependent on the grocery van's daily visits. He's so inspired, in fact, that he joins Claire in painting the white van in garish colors and renaming it The Flying Grocery. Love blooms.
But that's not the happy ending. The family dynamics will have to go through the grinder a couple more times before anyone can achieve true peace of mind. Writer/director Éric Guirado did extensive research on village life to prep the film, and his efforts were rewarded with a box office smash in France. It's easy to see why. How could a French audience not enjoy such a nostalgic look at a simpler and bucolic way of life? Those are their grandparents on the screen: Tough, proud people who have plenty of lessons to teach the whippersnappers who think all the answers in life can be found on Paris's bright boulevards.
Aka Le Fils de l'épicier.
Run time: 96 mins
In Theaters: Friday 6th June 2008
Distributed by: Les Films du Losange
Production compaines: Cofinova 3, Région Provence Côte d'Azur
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Fresh: 52 Rotten: 6
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: Éric Guirado
Producer: Milena Poylo, Gilles Sacuto
Screenwriter: Éric Guirado, Florence Vignon
Starring: Nicolas Cazalé as Antoine, Clotilde Hesme as Claire, Daniel Duval as Père d’Antoine, Jeanne Goupil as Mère d’Antoine, Liliane Rovère as Lucienne, Paul Crauchet as Le Père Clément, Chad Chenouga as Hassan, Benoît Giros as Fernand, Ludmila Ruoso as Sophie, Stéphan Guérin-Tillié as François
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