Skylab

Skylab

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

More than two years after Julie Delpy's film premiered at San Sebastian Film Festival, where it picked up a special jury prize, it finally makes it into UK cinemas (albeit on very limited release). At a guess, distributor Studiocanal is hoping that British audiences fresh from taking a trip to Paris with Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan in Le Week-end, will be prepared to hop on Eurostar again for this semi-autographical look at a summer family gathering in Brittany. Like the multigenerational clan who fill a farmhouse with their quirks and quandries, it's a mixed bag, in which the younger generation's storylines emerging victorious over the much less believable shenanigans of the adults.

Although introduced by the modern-day train framing device that is uneccessary and may well have you wanting to strangle Karen Viard's grown-up mum Albertine, the bulk of action is set in 1979, when Albertine (Lou Alvarez) was 11 years old, going on 20. Flashing back to her trip to Brittany with her mum (Delpy) and dad (Eric Elmosnino) to celebrate her gran's (Bernadette Lafont) 67th birthday, the action also takes place on the weekend in which NASA's Skylab space station was plummetting back towards earth. This event is of little concern to Albertine's extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins, but she is convinced it could spell doom for them all. The problems that Albertine will have to negotiate during the film, however, are of an altogether more earth-bound sort as the coming-of-age topics of first love and sex come to dominate proceedings for the youth pack.

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If the bookish Albertine and her cohorts are desperate to usher in adulthood - a theme epitomised by the character of Christian (Vincent Lacoste), who has a swoon-like effect on girls at the local disco even if he is constantly relegated to the kids' table by the adults - then the adults seem more juvenile by comparison. While this is no doubt part of Delpy's intention, as the mums and dads bitch it out from opposing political standpoints, there's a much more noticeable grinding of gears here, as though her points are being rammed home with a mallet.

Where the children's stories feel as nostalgically sweet as a Sherbet Dib-Dab and Delpy has always had a good feel for the comedy of discomfort, she fails to hold back and ultimately pushes the adults into caricature, with drama involving the ex-soldier scars of the troubled and troubling Uncle Roger (Denis Ménochet) particularly overplayed. Delpy has also always had a Woody Allen style way with her characters and Albertine is another great example of this, but as a director, she still needs to learn that less is sometimes more.

Reviewed on: 25 Oct 2013
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Nostalgic comedy on about family reunion set in the Seventies.
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Festivals:

SSFF 2011

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