The Premonition

The Premonition


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Charles Bénesteau's family don't understand it. He had a comfortable life thanks to the family fortune. In their circles, glamorous apartments with serving staff are the norm; they take cabs everywhere and socialise with the darlings of the art world. Why did he give it up to go and live in an inner city apartment complex all by himself? Why would anyone do that?

For Charles, the matter is simple: he wants to experience real life, to make contact with the world as it is understood by ordinary people. They might never consider him one of their own, but by allowing him to become an established presence on the borders of their lives they give him access to something which enables him to feel more human.

Copy picture

Though Charles goes all out to live his Utopian dream, lending money even when he knows he's being ripped off, nodding politely to neighbours he knows dislike him, the context in which the film places him is not romanticised. Some of the people he meets try to exploit him; others spread malicious gossip; and they expect him to be at their beck and call when problems arise. But every now and again he encounters unexpected kindness from strangers. When his health takes a turn for the worse a woman in the park revives him with a biscuit. It's a small gesture but a potent one.

Ultimately, Charles doesn't care if the world is perfect or not - all he knows is that he wants to live his life as if it were. Other characters speculate on the reason for this. Is he mad? Has he experienced some obscure revelation? His very goodness makes him a figure of suspicion, further marginalised, yet viewed by some with a sort of awe. And yet the film still manages to pose the question: is this goodness for its own sake, or is it, too, a form of selfishness?

Skilfully adapted from Emmanuel Bove's novel and updated to the modern world, this is a story much bigger than it looks, which is woven together from many smaller tales. It comes together awkwardly at first, the procession of smaller incidents not making much sense, but gradually it draws the viewer in. Director Jean-Pierre Darroussin's affecting central performance provides it with a solid core from which we, too, come to view the rest of the world as if it were an unfamiliar place. The minor characters are beautifully realised, intriguing and often sympathetic despite their sometime unpleasantness. It's only in the final scene that we realise how many people we have met and how effectively their stories have been told.

A modest film which far exceeds its simple appearance, The Premonition is a delight for the intelligent viewer.

Reviewed on: 14 Mar 2008
Share this with others on...
The Premonition packshot
A lawyer rejects his bourgeois past and moves to the inner city in an attempt to engage with ordinary life.

Director: Jean-Pierre Darroussin

Writer: Jean-Pierre Darroussin and Valérie Stroh, based on the book by Emmanuel Bove.

Starring: Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Valérie Stroh, Amandine Jannin, Anne Canovas, Nathalie Richard, Hippolyte Girardot, Laurence Roy, M'bembo

Year: 2006

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: France

Search database: