Going Away

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Going Away
"Nicole Garcia has a loose-limbed almost casual approach to directing, her easy way with actors drawing you in to this emotionally complex tale of loneliness and connection."

Actress-turned-writer/director Nicole Garcia has a loose-limbed almost casual approach to directing, her easy way with actors drawing you in to this emotionally complex tale of loneliness and connection. Meanwhile, her plotting, though intricate, allows her characters to spread their wings within it, buoying them up and making their choices believable.

It no doubt helps that her leading man is her son Pierre Rochefort, an up-and-coming actor whose impressive turn here should mean he doesn't have to rely on mum for future roles. He plays Baptiste, a supply school teacher who seems to have no interest in longer term commitments. When on a bank holiday weekend, he spots one of his pupils, Mathias (Mathias Brezot) hanging about the school gates, seemingly forgotten, he does the decent thing and gives him a ride home. On arrival, however, it seems Mathias' dad has muddled up the child custody plans with the weekend with the boy's mum so, more or less on a whim, Baptiste offers to look after him.

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Mathias doesn't have a huge amount of scripting during the film, nor is the story focused on him, yet he is one of Garcia's triumphs. He is a catalyst for action - dragging Baptiste to the beach on a pretext because he really wants to see his mum Sandra (Louise Bourgoin) - but his motivations and actions are authentically that of a kid from a split home, part social reticence, part approval-seeking. He is also crucial from beginning to end, although rarely taking centre stage, he offers us - and Baptiste and Sandra - a different perspective on events.

Sandra is a wanderer like Baptiste, although less through choice than necessity, but he sees in her a kindred spirit. He wants to help but doing so will force him to re-examine and, possibly, embrace the past and the family he has left behind. Garcia and her co-writer Jacques Fieschi are non-conformist. Their drama doesn't follow the rules and yet it shifts easily from the tentative romance of Baptiste and Sandra into the familiar French territory of the large family gathering, where opinions will be aired and truths surface before the dessert course.

The supporting actors, including Dominique Sanda as Baptiste's indomitable mother and Eric Ruf as his triumph-focused brother, give their characters a fully lived-in feel - it's easy to believe their shared history with Baptiste and their estrangement from him. Garcia, meanwhile, watches patiently, her camera (operated with understated skill by Pierre Milon) and the emotions of the film frequently finding moments of quiet reflection in the midst of the bustle of life.

Reviewed on: 06 Nov 2014
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A loner teacher finds his life changed by an encounter with a single mum.


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