Cockles And Muscles

Cockles And Muscles

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

A surprise hit in its native France, this award-winning comedy centres on a family spending their summer holidays in the villa where father Marc (Gilbert Melki) spent much of his youth. Daughter Laura (Sabrina Seyvecou), embarrassed by her father's attempts to talk about safer sex, soon leaves for a holiday of her own with her biker lover. Son Charly (Romain Torres) is joined by his gay best friend Martin (Edouard Collin), who is in love with him, leading his mother Beatrix (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) to decide that he must be gay himself. Beatrix has secrets of her own, with a lover, Matthieu (Jacques Bonnaffe), who has followed her there from home. Poor Marc, caught in the middle of all this, wrestles with confusing emotions until the story reveals a hidden passion in his past which will change all their lives.

Despite its farcical plot, this story unfolds gently with little hint of the chaos to come. Its depiction of summer idleness is attractive and refreshing, its characters charming, but it is sometimes too slow-paced for its own good.

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Its most intriguing element is the relationship between the boys; Martin's heartache and his determination to spend as much time as he can with Charly anyway makes a touching counterpoint to the generally comic storyline. Though Charly clearly finds it difficult enough to deal with girls, he flirts with his friend in an awkward co-dependency suggesting a shared emotional connection which can never be consummated.

This pleases his mother, who is determined that her life should not be conventional. Unfortunately, her part of the plot really is conventional to the point of becoming problematic, since it simply doesn't have the weight or conviction to balance the film's other romantic encounters. It's easy to see how she is delighted by her lover's random appearances and risk-taking, they seem to have good sex and they say they love each other, but a viewer can't see that. When Matthieu becomes possessive and demanding, its difficult to see how this couple could ever make it on their own. By contrast, though it receives far less screen time, Marc's experience is potent and convincing.

Taking on the subject of a fracturing family and turning it into a light comedy is not an easy thing to do, and for this Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau are to be congratulated - their story, despite all its complications, reaches a surprisingly happy conclusion. They even throw in a couple of musical numbers. However, despite some strong performances, there's something just a little too slight about this film; there's not quite enough story or emotion to pad out the farce. This is the fourth film from a promising team, and it is to be hoped that their work will continue to improve.

Reviewed on: 24 Mar 2006
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Seaside family sex romp with gay/straight permutations.
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Angus Wolfe Murray **

Director: Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau

Writer: Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau

Starring: Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Gilbert Melki, Jean-Marc Barr, Jacques Bonnaffe, Edouard Collin, Romain Torres, Sabrina Seyvecou

Year: 2005

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France

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