My Afternoons With Margueritte

My Afternoons With Margueritte

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Sweet-centred and unashamedly sentimental, My Afternoons With Margueritte is a warm and generous film. Although being set in the sort of French fictional town that almost certainly doesn't exist outside of storybooks - you know the type, filled with gently bickering locals eager to help one another out even if they bungle it - the emotional notes have a truthful ring.

Germain (Gérard Depardieu) is an amiable hunk of beef, who will do anything for anyone but seems oddly reluctant to commit to long-term girlfriend Annette (Sophie Guillemin), fearing perhaps that his mother's clear, and ongoing, lack of affection for him might have taken too much of a toll.

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On an afternoon shamble through the park to count the pigeons, he strikes up a conversation with 95-year-old Margueritte (Gisèle Casadesus). Just as he has no mother, to all intents and purposes, Margueritte, in turn, has no children and so a bond is born. Before long, their afternoon meetings are a regular fixture as the sprightly but fragile Margueritte gradually broadens Germain's mind and, via readings from Albert Camus, feeds his already fertile imagination and drags him from near-illiteracy to a love of books.

What saves Jean Becker's story - eager to tie things up rather too neatly in the final reel - from being over-sweet, are the performances from Depardieu and, particularly Casadesus. Depardieu knows how to bring charm to even the most simply drawn characters and here he gives his gentle giant just enough feistiness to keep him believable.

Casadesus, meanwhile, who was herself 95 at the time of filming, brings a dainty, bird-like fragility to her Margueritte that works as a beautiful counterpoint to Depardieu's bear of a man. The chemistry between them is utterly believable and it is they who hold the attention as this gentle story about unconditional love and selflessness winds its way around your heart.

Reviewed on: 18 Nov 2010
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A handyman forms a surprising bond with an old lady he meets in the park.
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