Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"What should have been a chamber piece for veteran writer/director Jean-Paul Rappeneau turns out to be a racer, neither in control nor out of breath."

A French rom-com from the director of Cyrano de Bergerac and The Horseman On The Roof? Surely not!

There is romance here. There is comedy here. And there is something else unique to the best of Gallic fare - sophistication, surprise, superiority.

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Jerome (Mathieu Amairic) has been working in Shanghai for 10 years. He is a businessman. He has done well. He is coming to Europe to close a deal in London and introduce his Chinese fiancee, the exquisitely dressed and immaculate looking Chen-lin (Gemma Chan), to his somewhat fractured family.

Nothing is as it seems, or rather nothing follows the obvious route. People intervene, such as Gregoire Piaggi (Gilles Lellouche) and Louise (Marine Vacth). Plans fall apart. Secrets are unravelled. The past, especially concerning Jerome's surgeon father (deceased) and the vast mansion in Ambray where Jerome and his brother were brought up and which is now the subject of a court case between Piaggi, who was at school with Jerome, and the council, involving ownership and building permission.

This sounds complicated, corruption in the mayor's office, irregularity in a law firm, a young girl's distraction, an older man's confusion, two mothers in crisis, the missing page from a will. Put simply, Jerome's family used to live in the big house. Now it has been sold, but the mother (wonderful Nicole Garcia) hasn't received any money, pending the result of the legal battle. The surgeon's work colleague and mistress, Florence Deffe (Karin Viard), lived with them until he died after which she was ignominiously booted out. She had a daughter, Louise, who is in her late teens/early twenties now, an impetuous, instinctive and stunningly beautiful girl.

When you put someone as unpredictable as Louise into the mix fireworks will go off, which is where the fun starts. Jerome's London meeting is beginning to look like a train wreck, with Chen-lin desperately trying to put the pieces back together, while Jerome sorts out the chaos in Ambray, which means sorting out his feelings for Louise who lives with Piaggi when she's not storming off in a huff and crashing her moped.

This is a film that never stops moving. What should have been a chamber piece for veteran writer/director Jean-Paul Rappeneau turns out to be a racer, neither in control nor out of breath.

The final chapter flirts with the feel-good factor, which is not its style, and may be a little disappointing in such a messed-to-perfection scenario. The performances are, in the words of the great master, flawless.

Pity about the title. It sounds so Christmas With The Coopers. What was it Philip Larkin wrote about families? This is not that. This is a damage limitation exercise that doesn't go according to plan. It goes according to the heart. And justice.

Reviewed on: 21 Jun 2016
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Family secrets are revealed when relatives fight over a country house.

Director: Jean-Paul Rappeneau

Writer: Jacques Fieschi, Philippe Le Guay, Jean-Paul Rappeneau, Jean-Paul Rappeneau, Julien Rappeneau

Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Marine Vacth, Gilles Lellouche, Nicole Garcia, Karin Viard, Guillaume de Tonquedec, André Dussollier, Gemma Chan, Claude Perron, Jean-Marie Winling, Yves Jacques, Noël Hamann, Olga Sokolow, Crispin Redman, Marie-Christine Orry

Year: 2015

Runtime: 113 minutes

Country: France


EIFF 2016

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