Written by John Delia
Sweet, charming and touching, My Afternoons with Margueritte has what it takes when it comes to entertainment value. What makes the film so good comes from the acting of Girard Depardieu, Gisèle Casadesus and fine directing by Jean Becker. If you prefer a film that has excellent acting with a loving script, then My Afternoons with Margueritte is your French strawberry croissant.
The story follows Germain (Gérard Depardieu) a simple 50-year-old soul who is treasured by the villagers of a traditional French rural town. Germain feels unloved by his argumentative mother (Claire Maurier) who allows him to live in a trailer in the rear of her home. Helpful, honest, yet sometimes boisterous, Germain goes about his everyday routine that includes a visit to the local tavern where he likes being the center of attention.
One day on his way to his spot to feed the pigeons in the local park he spies an elderly lady (Margueritte – Gisèle Casadesus) sitting on his favorite bench. Quick to argue, Germain makes it known to Margueritte that she is interrupting an important task. After a tête-à-tête Germain forgives her and settles in counting each of his feathered friends. When Margueritte returns the following day at the same bench, Germain starts to worry about the relationship he has started.
Depardieu plays the kind but conflicted Germain with aplomb, showing how the man has unfulfilled the life he wanted. Brooding sometimes about his father, arguing with his mother over trivial things, Depardieu shows how this illiterate person takes life one day at a time. When he meets Margueritte, an intelligent well-read woman nearing the end of her days, Depardieu starts to adjust his character to show a better outlook on life.
In support, Casadesus (96-years young in real life) puts on a superb performance as the 90-year-old woman who can use her charm to tame even the gruffest man, even if he happens to be in the right. I like the way Casadesus maneuvers her character to change the Germain’s outlook. She works on him each day until they come to an agreement that changes Germain’s life, and hers. There is truly wonderful chemistry between Casadesus and Depardieu, making My Afternoons with Margueritte an endearing prize.
Controlled direction by Becker of the strong-willed Depardieu makes the film work. His ability to get the talkative thespian to focus his eloquent ability in the development of the kindly Germain puts him on top of my French directors list. Making the film charming yet not maudlin, Becker finds reality in every scene, even when Germain’s mother berates him during a poignant argument.
The film has not been rated by the MPAA, but I found very little content that may be considered offensive.
FINAL ANALYSIS: A superb little film with a lot of heart.
Cast: Gérard Depardieu, Gisèle Casadesus, Maurane, Claire Maurier, Patrick Bouchitey, and Sophie Guillemin
Directed by: Jean Becker
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Comedy, In French with subtitles
Running Time: 1hr 22min