Monday, 20 January 2014

French Film (2009)

French Film is a pleasant enough and rather tender British romcom in which Hugh Bonneville's film journalist finally understand the meaning of true love (or deception) through the unlikely guide of Eric Cantona, as a director whose back catalogue he is researching for a forthcoming interview. 

The lead role is taken by Bonneville, an actor I've long admired, who is now a huge TV star thanks to Downton Abbey, a show I must admit I've failed to be wooed by ('Downright Shabby' I calls it). I imagine those familiar with Bonneville in that may find it hard to view the housewives uppercrust favourite here as an oafish cynic idly adrift in a loveless relationship (he evens farts in one scene, yes Earl whatsit blowing off, hang on to your hat granny!) but he's a capable enough actor to convince beyond his now most famous role and has some of the script's better lines. Indeed some lines are genuinely funny, it's just a shame they don't zing as much here as they may do in say, a Richard Curtis movie, the likes of which could easily cover similar ground. 

Bonneville is surrounded by great talent all working well; firstly Anne Marie Duff and Victoria Hamilton, two actresses who are criminally underrated, and thankfully each get a chance to shine here; Duff throughout (because she has more opportunity) and Hamilton, in a slightly underwritten role, principally in one key scene that really grabs your heart just at a time when you may have given up on ever getting a handle on the character. And there's also Douglas Henshall, the charming Scot who seems to regularly appear in these well made likeable but slightly forgettable limited released/straight to DVD British films.

But most intriguing of all is Cantona as the French auteur. It's a role he's probably a little too young for - the script suggests the director was at his creative peak in the 80s - and I must admit on occasion I couldn't help wonder if the film hankered after Depardieu instead. But that's not to detract anything from the former Man Utd player as he's very good in the role, as indeed I've found him to be in all the films I've seen him in since he commenced this secondary career.

Ultimately French Film stands apart from most romcoms with its message, its inability to second guess the theme and overall its quirkiness. Whilst not a complete success it merits a watch. The kind of film best served with a bottle of wine and nibbles on a dull night.

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