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It's difficult to know how many average moviegoers will be aware that first-time writer-director Florence Moncorge is the daughter of Jean Gabin, one of the all-time greatest actors in French Cinema. Actually it's academic and I for one am happy to judge the film on its own terms and let me say right off that I enjoyed it immensely. I saw it immediately after La Doublure and though they couldn't be more different both are vastly entertaining. Gregori Derangere could be forgiven for experiencing a sense of deja vu whilst shooting this film for it has much in common with L'Equipier where he also played an 'outsider' in a small, close-knit community; The Teammate was also set in the past and utilised a frame narrator - and there's even a lighthouse nearby though it plays no part in the story. Joseph (Derangere) is an illiterate and itinerant laborer who fetches up one summer circa 1950 at the farm of Monique (Catherine Frot) who takes him on as an all-round farm hand. If we can perhaps anticipate that sooner or later Monique and Joseph will be putting in some sack-time this does nothing to spoil the lyricism of harsh lives lived in a harsh landscape and Moncorge captures superbly the day-to-day life on the farm helped immeasurably by actors who are not afraid to get their hands dirty, Frot especially is a revelation in wellies and shapeless shift pitching hay up onto a wagon, milking cows and scrubbing both vegetables and a kitchen with an old porcelain sink whilst Derangere weighs in by walking behind a shire horse holding a plough on unyielding ground. It isn't, however, a two-hander by any means; Frot has a daughter Jeanne (Laura Smet) who, in her capacity as the local schoolteacher helps Joseph to master reading and writing and Francois Berleand is also on hand as the maire who fancies Monique and barely tolerates Joseph and, rounding off a stellar cast is Mathilde Seigner as the local pharmacist. Given that Joseph also puts in some sack-time with Jeanne you could say that it all ends in tears but this remains a fine and admirable movie that I'll certainly see again.
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