The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life

The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life


Reviewed by: Chris

Can you go back in your memory and find a key day that was the start of your life as you know it now? Who were the people around you then? What was your favourite song? Was there maybe a special piece of clothing that brings memories flooding back with a smile? What about the food you loved in those days? Iconic details burned in your brain like a hit song, a movie masterpiece, an unstoppable feeling. When did your life first explode? Somewhere those images are a picture of who you are.

Maybe it was getting married. Having your first child. Leaving home. Passing your driving test. Getting your Amex Gold. Or falling in love. Moving house. Losing your virginity. Starting university. Finding religion. Getting stoned. Discovering you were someone else all along.

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Take five people. Take five days. Define the tingles at either end of their spines. Who they are to themselves. To each other. The family in which they are all, somehow, related.

The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life might not be Magnolia or even American Beauty, but it’s damn good fun. This is thumpingly enjoyable entertainment, even with (dare I mention them?) subtitles. In less than two hours, you will feel that you’ve known Mum and Dad, eldest son Albert, grungy sister Fleur and romantic bro’ Raphael all your life. Cos now you know theirs.

Blood ties are only one of the ways we relate. Usually the really important bit is a single moment, incident or word. Bits that affect everything else. Bits that define people to you in ways words can’t. Intimacies or misunderstandings. Hard decisions taken when you disagree with those you love.

Powered by a wonderfully cross-Channel soundtrack, The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life is fast and funny. And never flippant. It's a film for intelligent teenagers who still like to get wasted, for parents struggling to bond, for those in relationships and those trying to connect. It’s not often I feel I can recommend a film to nearly everyone I know (barring subtitle allergies). But I'll stick my neck out and say this is one.

It’s a symphonic comedy. About finding yourself alone in the midst of those who love you, taking pride in yourself when no one remembers, finally getting through to someone. It could almost be the thinking feelgood film of the year if it wasn’t in French (maybe they’ll dub it for America?)

To get such a complex mix right is masterpiece of modern editing. But the filmmakers have also been astutely conscious of the need to define key experiences in terms audiences can relate to rather than just the way they are experienced by the characters. A love of grunge and praying at Jim Morrison’s grave, for instance, does not translate into inflicting Nirvana and the Doors on us. Rather, music is used in classic style to communicate feelings.

Or Bowie:

"Time - He's waiting in the wings...

"His script is you and me, boy"

There are plenty of senseless things in the First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life. Believe me – air guitar has never looked so cool. But there are enough really cool, heart-warming moments to make it more than worth your ticket price. It doesn’t hit the intellectual self-awareness heights about dysfunctional families that it is capable of – life, death, trust and infidelity, burying your dog, nicotine patches, feng shui, confiscated joints, premature ejaculation and facelifts – none of this matters and yet it does. And as polished all-round entertainment, this film is fairly hard to beat. If you disagree, maybe you’re taking life too seriously and not seriously enough. Sometimes it’s hard (as every film critic knows) to stop analysing long enough to smell the grass. In literary terms, it amounts to Mrs Dalloway buying the flowers herself.

Reviewed on: 22 Jun 2009
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A multi-character view of one family as they deal with everything from bereavement to nicotine withdrawal.
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EIFF 2009

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If you like this, try:

The Hours
Little Miss Sunshine