Conversations With My Gardener

Conversations With My Gardener


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

When you look at a landscape painting, you may easily find it beautiful. But what does it make you feel? Conversations With My Gardener is full of paintings, landscapes, and musings on the subject of art. At its core it is just what it says on the tin - a series of discussions between two men. But what it makes you feel marks it out as something really special.

There's much more to painting than creating a realistic copy of something - subtle techniques, just as in the filmmaker's craft, draw out the secret colours hidden in the shade, the personality within a human subject. The painter in this story, expertly played by the ever-reliable Daniel Auteuil, knows this because of his artistic training - yet, for all his sophistication, he struggles to handle what ought to be the simple things in life. His gardener (Jean-Pierre Darroussin, growing ever more impressive with each of his recent films), can see it clearly with his untutored eyes, yet doesn't have the confidence to admit it. His craft is a different one, his ambitions all focused on taming the natural world. He talks about fishing like Captain Ahab and he dreams of growing ever better vegetables.

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What makes Conversations such a delight is that it never judges its subjects, never suggests that we should value one approach above the other. And the two men are not reduced to mere city sophisticate and rural innocent stereotypes - they are both complex individuals, given real depth by the excellent actors. The gardener makes a case for working class values that we rarely see in cinema, and by the end the painter is looking at the tacky decorations in his modest flat with a new understanding of their worth.

Conversations is brilliantly written with a pace sustained superbly over two hours, never permitting the viewer's attention to drift. Its simple framework of stories and observations persistently provides entertainment and a warm good humour full of gentle comedy. To put it simply, one rarely sees a film this well crafted. It's a real pleasure to watch and, despite its downbeat ending, the sort of thing you'll find yourself reaching for whenever you want to feel better about the world.

Reviewed on: 20 Nov 2008
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A Parisian artist taking refuge in the countryside forms a powerful friendship with the gardener he knew as a child.
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Director: Jean Becker

Writer: Jean Becker, Jean Cosmos, Henri Cueco, Jacques Monnet

Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Fanny Cottençon, Alexia Barlier, Hiam Abbass, Élodie Navarre, Roger Van Hool, Michel Lagueyrie, Christian Schiaretti, Jean-Claude Bolle-Reddat

Year: 2007

Runtime: 109 minutes

Country: France


CFF 2008

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