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Antoine Sforza, a thirty-year-old young man, left his village ten years before in order to start a new life in the big city, but now that his father, a traveling grocer, is in hospital after a stroke, he more or less reluctantly accepts to come back to replace him in his daily rounds. Back in the village, accompanied by Claire, a young woman he loves but who hesitates to commit herself, he does the job half-satisfactorily. Too blunt, not in harmony with the locals, he offends them more than he serves them. Fortunately Claire, who has more business acumen, helps him to improve his skills. On the other hand, the relationships are tense with his brother François and even worse with his father, who despises him. So when the latter is back in the village, the situation deteriorates... Written by
Director Eric Guirado spent time observing actual village merchants as research for the film. See more »
When Antoine brings his mother to his apartment at the beginning of the movie, they enter from the staircase via a white door. Few seconds later when he exits the apartment to bring coffee to his mother from his neighbor, he exit to the staircase via the brown door. See more »
Traveling grocery sales bring a family back together
Eric Guirado has made documentaries about the French countryside and specifically traveling tradesmen in central and southern France. Directly from that background comes this touching little fiction feature about a family that has a grocery business with a van that travels into the hills and provides daily necessities to aging country people. One of the sons, Francois (Stephan Gillian Tillié of Just a Question of Love) is a hairdresser in town. The other, Antoine (Nicolas Cazalé of Le Clan), left home years ago to live in Paris, but he returns to help out when his father (Daniel Duval) is downed by a heart attack. He stays with his mom (Jeanne Goupil). And very importantly, he brings with him a lively young woman, Claire (Clotilde Hesme, of Regular Lovers). They aren't really involved, but he is bailing her out. She is penniless, the refugee of an early failed marriage. He borrows money from his mom to make this trip, bail Claire out of her debts, and give her a peaceful place to finish her "bac" and apply to college in Spain. His own life in Paris has never jelled. He can't seem to hold a job for three months running.
Antoine pretends that he and Claire are married. And Francois, who lives elsewhere but comes by for meals, is pretending all is fine with his wife, who has left him some time ago. This isn't a family that communicates well, and Antoine left them because things weren't right; but neither was his own behavior as a youth--as we find out from Lucienne (Liliane Riviere), a feisty old lady on the van's grocery route who does not remember him with favor. Antoine also becomes more involved with Old Man Clement (Paul Clauchet), whose hen's eggs are practically all he has to offer any more. Guirado is remarkably skillful at making the constant trips in the grocery van different and reflective of changes in Antoine. Grounded in documentary technique, the film has a wealth of specific detail and never seems forced. And on top of that those in the main roles are actors with presence, anchored in center stage by the hunky, soulful Cazale and the vibrant, very French Clotilde Hesme. There is star quality here yet Cazalé, Tillié, and Duval, though you might not have known to pick them from a crowd, look very much like blood relations. That's good casting.
This is a very slight story, with some elements of too-sweet resolution, and it hardly seems likely to have much of a future as a US release. What makes it work are two things: the wealth of authentic country people who make up the secondary characters, the "customers" Antoine takes groceries to; and the fact that there are emotions here, that you care about Antoine and Francois and their dangling lives, the disgruntlement of their dad, Antoine's discovered affection for Claire, and his gradual acceptance, for the lack of anything better but because he has a basically good heart, of the idea that he might find a life in the rural world he fled from.
The Grocer's Son/Le fils de l'épicier is part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, February 29-March 9, 2008. No US distributor at that time. Later limited US theatrical release starting in June 2008.
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