THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE (LE PREMIER JOUR DE RESTE DE TA VIE). Starring Jacques Gamblin, Zabou Breitman, Déborah François and Marc-André Grondin. Directed by Rémi Bezançon. 114 minutes. Rated M (mature themes, drug use and sexual references).
This is the kind of story the French do so well, a focus on a family, their interactions, their crises. It is different in its screenplay and in its structure. It takes place over five days, but not consecutive days. Rather, the days are significant over a period of twelve years, each one focussing particularly on the father, the mother, the older son, the younger son, the daughter. This leads to the cumulative effect of getting to know each character very well.
Once the audience is on the wavelength of what is happening in the storytelling, the insights of the writing, the warmth of the family bonds (despite lots of disagreements) and the fine performances, the film becomes quite a moving, sometimes endearing experience.
The father is a taxi driver, a good man with limitations who, sometimes, does not understand his wife and children at all. The wife is loving but, as the years pass, feels that she is ageing and losing her beauty and is not appreciated. The older son is a surgeon who moves out of the family home at the beginning and who lives a professionally successful career but a somewhat morose personal life. The younger son is the eternal procrastinator who does find a goal in life through his wife connoisseur grandfather. The daughter is young, rebellious as she becomes a teen, falls into all the traps that this kind of girl could but, eventually, after fights, she makes good.
The film was popular in France and won three Cesar awards, including most promising actress for Deborah Francois as the daughter and Marc-Andre Grondin as the younger son. The film travels well outside France.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out August 12, 2010.