Un Air De Famille

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Once a week the family meet at Sleepy Dad's Cafe. This time, it's a little different. Phillipe has just had his two minutes of fame, being interviewed on TV about the computer business he works for and his wife, Yolande (Catherine Frot), is celebrating her birthday.

Betty is 30, unmarried, definitely independent and not enamoured of these sentimental get togethers. The waiter, Denis (Jean-Pierre Darroussin), is in love with her. "You talk like a man," he teases. "You drink like one, too." She shrugs, lights up and orders another. Henri (Jean-Piere Bacri) inherited the cafe from his father and carries its responsibilities heavily upon his shoulders. His wife, Arlette, is not there, She's seeing friends. In fact, she's not coming back. Henri doesn't know it yet, but suspects as much. He's in a filthy mood.

The film has a theatrical structure. Practically all the action takes place in the cafe. Characters expose their true natures as the evening progresses and, as usual, they are not what they seem. The shy becomes bold, the suave becomes aggressive, the stupid become wise and Mama remains the same - dominating, snobbish, opinionated.

The writing has a cutting edge and the performances are uniformly fine, especially Frot, who plays a woman so undermined by her husband's bullying that she assumes the role of dunce to please him. Instead, it infuriates him. Beneath her guise, a kind, fun-loving person peeks out.

The twists and turns that open these people to themselves and make them understand, however briefly, that life is not a collection of polite Friday reunions, have the dramatic impact of a Gallic take on renowned Yorkshire playwright, Alan Ayckbourn.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Un Air De Famille packshot
Family laundry is aired on an evening out.
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Director: Cedric Klapisch

Writer: Agnes Jaoui, JeanPierre Bacri, Cedric Klapisch

Starring: JeanPierre Bacri, JeanPierre Darroussin, Catherine Frot

Year: 1996

Runtime: 109 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France

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