My Men


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

My Men
"The film’s structure is on the loose side but the performances keep things on track."

Writer/director Emma Luchini and co-writer Nicolas Rey show their collaborative success on the Cesar-winning short La Femme De Rio was no flash in the pan with this feature-length romantic comedy that explores similar themes. The French title Un Début Prometteur translates as A Promising Start but My Men, though more on the nose, is no less appropriate for a film that is driven by the actions of the central female character.

Mathilde (Veerle Baetens) enters the lives of the Vauvel family entirely by accident. Martin Vauvel (played with a warm schlubbiness by popular French comic Manu Payet) has returned to his dad’s home after a spell in rehab and with his marriage in tatters. It’s soon clear his addiction to booze remains unabated, although his father Francis (played by Luchini’s own dad Fabrice) has obsessions of his own, including an almost obsessive compulsive approach to his flowers and a penchant for insomnia-driven impulse buying in the dead of night. Martin’s younger brother Gabriel (played with suitably angelic brightness by the up and coming Zacharie Chasseriaud) is of an age where life is stretching ahead like a big adventure.

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This is why Gabriel, on spotting Mathilde in a bar, thinks nothing of eavesdropping on her conversation and, upon learning she needs money, fast, says he can help, secure in the knowledge that Martin will help him out. Mathilde is a go-with-the-flow kind of girl, although she also has her own private addiction – gambling. Gabriel’s obsession, of course, soon becomes Mathilde, who has few qualms about playing along, even after she discovers Martin – by this time threatening a permanent stupor – is a kind of bewitch-one-get-one-free.

Luchini shows a lightness of touch both in terms of direction and scripting. There are moments of contemplation, particularly on the part of Martin, but they are never allowed to bring the mood down or get in the way of a good joke. The film gently probes at the ways doing things for others can be a way of helping yourself without losing sight of its punchlines. Luchini and Rey also have a good eye for absurdist humour so that a trip to the dog track, while initially seeming like an unnecessary dalliance, ultimately offers both some nicely observed humour involving the drugged-up dog and its equally doped owner, while also showing Martin coming to a dawning revelation about himself.

The film’s structure is on the loose side but the performances keep things on track. Luchini Sr may only have a handful of scenes but he brings the full force of his A-game, quickly immersing us in his slightly eccentric father figure, whose love for his sons is never in doubt, while Payet lets the melancholy of Martin bubble up through the humour. Belgian star Baetens, who was such a revelation in The Broken Circle Breakdown, also gets to employ her full range, including singing finely calibrated rendition of Barbara’s Mes Hommes.

The final act is beautifully shot in the gardens in Claude Monet’s water lily filled gardens at Giverny, where Mathilde is permitted to remain vital yet fiercely impressionistic and enigmatic to the last.

Reviewed on: 11 Nov 2016
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My Men packshot
An enigmatic woman acts as a catalyst in the lives of a father and his sons.

Director: Emma Luchini

Writer: Emma Luchini, Nicolas Rey, Vanessa David, Nicolas Rey

Starring: Bedik Agazarian, André Antebi, Constantine Attia, Veerle Baetens, Jean-Michel Balthazar, Romane Barron, Guillaume Briat, Adrien Cauchetier, Zacharie Chasseriaud, Roger Contebardo, Suren Davtyan, Bertrand Festas, Simon Galaup Rey, Emilie Gavois-Kahn, Bruno Hausler

Year: 2015

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Belgium, France


French 2016

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