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After having broken up with his girlfriend and left his job, Simon has come back to his small hometown in the countryside, where he meets up again with his old friend Julien. The two thirty-year-old, unemployed and idle men decide to reinvest in an old dream from their teenage years: hitting the road for an adventurous journey. They buy a huge motor-home, but the trip is delayed by various troubles, and they decide to start their journey right where they are. Through this first motionless stage of their trip, Simon and Julien are confronted with themselves and what they wanted to run away from. Written by
"I thought they were going to visit lots of different countries and there would be some interesting stories and stuff, but it was just depressing as hell!"
I heard this irritating comment come from behind me as soon as the end credits started to roll, and now realise that, ironically, the girl who was speaking expressed the same sentiment that the two lovable main characters of Mobile Home felt at the beginning of the film. Exotic locations, colourful cameos and a heart-warming coming-of-age message is what one expects from the sort of comedic road movie that this film was described as being in the brochure of the Melbourne French Film Festival. As our two twenty-something male heroes Simon (Arthur Dupont) and Julien (Guillaume Gouix) buy a caravan and set off for a trip of self-discovery around Europe, they are expecting a fun gap year, and as the girl sitting behind first down in the theatre, she was expecting Around the World in 80 Days or Red Dog. The realities of such a grand, optimistic, complicated escapade hit them both very hard indeed, and while the on screen youths learn their lesson within the tight 95-minute running time, that precocious real-life audience member might take a little longer to wrap her head around such the challenging truth of the difficulties of an independent, fast-moving holiday.
However, this is certainly one of the more enjoyable ways of depicting this reality. Julien and Simon are a wonderfully enigmatic, lively, sympathetic pair of buddies played so brilliantly by the two very fine young actors. Simon is tired of being babied by his typically fawning mother (Claudine Pelletier) and has no interest in being the 1950s family man that his father (Jackie Berroyer) wants him to be, and so sneakily spends the money he gave him to buy a house on a roomy caravan that he urgently wants to share with his friend. Julien, however, seems very content living near his loving father (a very endearing Jean-Paul Bonnaire) who he has had to look after over the past few years as he's suffered a very taxing illness. Julien assures himself that his dear old Pa has indeed recovered and no longer needs such close attention, but the doctor's constant habit of qualifying all of his positive prognoses with diplomatic phrases "most likely" and "if all goes well" makes it difficult for him to let rest his concerns. On top of this, he has grown too attached to his father as his beloved charge to suddenly leave him, much like Simon's mother can barely keep from hemming her son's pants every time she sees him, let alone watch him drive off to another country.
When a hilarious setback leaves them stranded just a few kilometres from their parents' houses and forces them to take a hard, labour-intensive job in the countryside to fund what they pathetically insist on calling "the rest" of their trip, Julien, and even Simon, are quietly relieved to still be so close to their loving protection of the people who raised them.
Cinematic newcomer François Pirot's intelligently entertaining exploration of the relationships these two men share with each other is an exceptional example of austere yet quirky French minimalist realism. The scenes between Julien and his father are beautifully done as well, as is his relationship with the lovely receptionist, Valérie (Catherine Salée) at his new workplace, which sharply veers away from the potential lusty affair to being something of more substance as soon as she reveals that she has a little son. However, the two other young women who pass through these men's lives are much less interesting. Simon shares a painfully banal scene breakup scene with his girlfriend early on that threatens to form the focus of the rest of the film, but fortunately only results in one other exchange of recycled soap opera dialogue, and even leads to another moment that gives us a new insight into the character. The boys also get stuck with an overplayed insufferable teenage girl who is too much of an emotional wreck to be rejected quickly and painlessly, but thankfully, when she's gone, she's gone for good.
It's ultimately our two main characters and Pirot's insightful study of early adulthood that one remembers from this little French gem.
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