Eye For Film >> Movies >> Les Petites Vacances (2006) Film Review
Les Petites Vacances opens with a mother rushing to get her children on the train. They are going away for a couple of days with their grandmother; she scarcely has time to kiss them goodbye, but the trip is clearly a routine one, and she's not worried. We learn that she is separated from their father, whom they will be visiting. During the journey the grandmother nods off and wakes with a start to realise the boy, Thomas, is out of sight. He reappears momentarily, trailing, the kite she has given him, but in that instant, understated though it is, we are reminded of the continual fear which everyone with parental responsibility experiences from time to time. What if the children were to disappear? What if someone took them away?
This is a film constructed around a simple premise, but the subtle ways in which it returns to the subject of that fear give it a depth and balance which keep it compelling throughout and ensure that, despite its characters' increasingly desperate situation, it never descends into farce. Central to it is a marvelous performance by the redoubtable Bernadette Lafont as Danièle, the grandmother, a woman who becomes determined to hang on to her chance at happiness. Little hints at her failing health suggest that she doesn't have much time left; and time is against her, too, when it comes to the grandchildren, who will soon cease to need her. In the circumstances, she can't bear to let them go; so, when the holiday is over, she fails to take them home, and she builds up a trail of excuses and outright lies as she takes them with her on an adventure through the French countryside.
One of the great strengths of this film is its bluntness. It never hides behind sentiment and, though the film is focused entirely on Danièle, we get plenty of hints to remind us of how her behaviour is impacting on others. Adèle Csech delivers a strong and complex performance as the adolescent granddaughter Marine, at first preoccupied by her own concerns, resentful of anything which suggests she's being thought of as a child, but gradually becoming aware that something is going wrong and starting to develop a real sense of adult responsibility. She's never romanticised; she's awkward, painfully self-conscious and often unpleasant, but she's utterly believable, trying to establish her own personality in a world where adult behaviour makes less and less sense.
Les Petites Vacances is beautiful to look at, taking us on a tour of mountains and coast with some spectacular scenery. As Danièle revisits the places where she has been happy in the past we gradually gain more insight into the passion which has overtaken her, a determination to enjoy life which is about more than just the grandchildren themselves. Her feelings are never overtly stated; rather, the film itself becomes an exploration of her character, its sensual imagery expressing her relationship with the world. This is a splendid piece of film-making. Unmissable.Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2007
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