Helmer Eric Guirado never relies on twist plots, car chases or visual effects and yet the viewer is captivated and leaves the theater fulfilled and happy. This is no small feat, so how does the co-writer/director Guirado accomplish this object? It's easy for me to analyze how he went about it (although I guess it must have been very difficult for him to make such a thin story interesting).
What actually makes this film particularly effective is its fine blend of documentary and fiction. A real ethnographer, the director captures real life to perfection. The grocer's son's customers are real people, what they say is what everyday fellows do in everyday life. Moreover most of the people playing villagers and customers are not professional actors but true people re-enacting what they do day after day. Simple, old chaps, rarely honored by the big screen. All rings true in 'Le Fils de l'Epicier' and this all the less surprising as Eric Guirado followed three different grocers in their daily rounds for months and months before filming. He DOES know his subject and you get an impression of truth throughout.
However, supposing 'Le fils de l'épicier' had been a hardcore documentary, it might not be as exciting as it is. For what little fiction is added to the documentary aspect lives up to it and finally makes the story and the characters catch on even better.
For instance Guirado examines with impressive relevance the tense relationships in the family. He also explores convincingly the serious theme of finding one's place in life and in society. Just like the customers mentioned before, the characters are true to life and Eric Guirado, never condemning any of his characters, tries to make us understand all of them, including the most unpleasant ones. A humanistic approach Jean Renoir would have approved of. Add to this a knack for comedy. Whenever it is possible Guirado eases the tension thanks to well-timed and staged funny sequences, like the painting of the van, the crazy appearances of Lucienne, etc.) There are good professional actors too ( handsome brooding Nicolas Cazalé; refreshingly unaffected Clotilde Hesme; Jeanne Goupil, Joel Seria's former sexy muse turned plump-fifty-year-old-mother-with-a-heart-of-gold ; always unsettling Daniel Duval as the unforgiving father).
To put it in a nutshell, in 'Le Fils de l'Epicier' the documentary side enhances the fiction and vice versa. Go and see it. You won't be disappointed.