Welcome to the Sticks (2008)
A French public servant from Provence is banished to the far North. Strongly prejudiced against this cold and inhospitable place, he leaves his family behind to relocate temporarily there, with the firm intent to quickly come back.
Although living a comfortable life in Salon-de-Provence, a charming town in the South of France, Julie has been feeling depressed for a while. To please her, Philippe Abrams, a post office administrator, her husband, tries to obtain a transfer to a seaside town, on the French Riviera, at any cost. The trouble is that he is caught red-handed while trying to scam an inspector. Philippe is immediately banished to the distant unheard of town of Bergues, in the Far North of France. Leaving his child and wife behind, the crucified man leaves for his frightening destination, a dreadfully cold place inhabited by hard-drinking, unemployed rednecks, speaking an incomprehensible dialect called Ch'ti. Philippe soon realizes that all these ideas were nothing but prejudices and that Bergues is not synonymous with hell...
A French public servant who lives in Provence is unexpectedly banished to the armpit of the far North. Strongly prejudiced against this cold and inhospitable place, he leaves his family behind to relocate temporarily there, with the firm intent to come back South as soon as possible...
- Philippe and Julie Abrams are a married couple with a young child who live in a small town in the South-East of France. Philippe works as an executive for the national post services and tries to be transferred to a different location on the sea side, thinking that Julie, who is depressed, will be happier and that their relationship will improve. Unfortunately, despite pulling some strings, he learns that other disabled candidates have priority in their choice of location and decides to pretend he is on a wheelchair to make sure he obtains a job on the French Riviera. As he gets caught by an inspector, the HR manager tells him that he is sent to the small town of Bergues in the Far North of France, to work as the director of the post office, as disciplinary action for his failed attempt of fraud. Other than being fired, he has no choice but going and Julie, very disappointed at him, refuses to join him, so they accept to live apart for the next 2 years. Both Julie and Philippe are very biased against the North of France and Julie's senile great-uncle, reminiscing his childhood in the North during the coal-mining era of the 1930s, portrays the North as a freezing region, even during the summer, where people speak with an incomprehensible accent and all die young.
Philippe leaves the South so reluctantly that he gets caught for slow driving on the motorway. His first 24 hours in the North makes it look like his bias is true. It starts bucketing down as soon as he comes across the sign of welcome to the region, and when he meets Antoine, the postman and carillon player of the town, he can hardly understand anything he says. As Antoine accepts to invite him over for the night, knowing that he lives with his mother although in his mid-thirties, and after seeing photos of him dressed as a woman at a carnival, Philippe thinks that Antoine is gay. Very stressed out and paranoid that he might flirt with him, Philippe decides to block the door to his room with a chair. The morning after, when Philippe meets Antoine's mother, she comes across very bossy, intrusive and cold and clearly treats Antoine like a 6-year-old. Having a taste of the local cheese (Maroilles), he clearly is not impressed. When it's time to go to the post office, Philippe is so depressed about being there that he gets offended by a mild tease from Antoine, and talks very coldly to his other employees, Fabrice, Yann and Annabelle and even corrects their pronunciation of certain words. However, they appear understanding and invite him for some lunch at the chips van. Philippe starts to open up to them until Antoine comes back from delivering mail, looking intoxicated and unintentionally talking to Philippe with disrespect which embarasses his colleagues especially Annabelle. Philippe wants to sanction him until Antoine, Yann and Fabrice bring a van full of furniture to give Philippe for his flat. Philippe is then very grateful and decides to invite them all for a restaurant dinner in Lille. He is then completely won over by the region and the friendly and welcoming locals, learns all the essential local expressions, including bad words, and when Julie calls, he first tells her that he is all right. He tells her that the region, though not sunny, is not all that cold and that he has been welcome by the northerners. However Julie is sure that he is just saying it to reassure her and asks him not to overprotect her. Philippe then states that he is going through hell and that he cannot wait to see her again down South. Julie feels guilty that Philippe's transfer to the North is her fault, given that she pressured him so much into finding a job on the coast that he felt the need to cheat on his application, thus taking a massive risk. While enjoying working in the North, Philippe lies to his whole family and southerner friends, telling them that the region is peopled with alcoholics, that there are epidemics, that the days are very short etc. It worries Julie who starts acting more caring towards her husband than she used to. Philippe thinks that the distance is actually positive for his relationship with his wife, so doesn't tell her the truth.
Meanwhile in the North, it was obvious from the start that Antoine is in love with the lovely Annabelle, but she has another boyfriend who is the stereotype of the biker with attitude. As Antoine once again comes back drunk from delivering mail, he witnesses him being abusive towards Annabelle. When he tries to interfere, Annabelle's boyfriend taunts him and Antoine decides to smash his motorbike, which causes a fight that Philippe, Fabrice and Yann try to stop, but Antoine punches Philippe by accident. Given that it is not the first time that Antoine comes back drunk during service and it has come to a point where he has had a fight in front of the post office in his uniform, Philippe considers severe disciplinary action. Annabelle explains to Philippe that Antoine doesn't dare to say no to people who offer him a drink when he delivers mail. Philippe is not satisfied. Thinking that the problem lies much deeper, he tries to discover more about his private life by saying that he knows that Antoine loves her. Annabelle reveals that she dated him for a year and was happy with him but his passiveness towards his intrusive mum strained their relationship and caused them to split up. Although Philippe thinks it is not his job, he decides to visit Antoine at the carillon and have a chat about it. He reveals to Antoine that he is in a similar position, as he lies to his wife about being happy up North. Acting as the director, he tells Antoine that he really has to stop drinking during service hours. Acting then as a friend, he encourages him to stand up to his mum, wondering if the issues in his private life are not the actual cause for his drinking. One morning, Philippe decides to join Antoine to deliver mail in order to show him how to say no while staying friendly. Funnily enough, Philippe discovers that he can't himself turn down a drink with the friendly locals and even though Antoine is willing to resist to start with, both of them decide to celebrate their friendship, end up quite intoxicated, and when trying to race Antoine on their bicycles, Philippe skips a stop sign, is followed by the police and arrested when he has an accident. Philippe calls Julie from the police station and tells her that because he has been arrested, he can't drive back home before the day after. Julie gets very worried at the idea that her husband might have become an alcoholic. When he visits her back South, Julie decides to pack her suitcase and join him, which puts Philippe in a very awkward position, having told her all along that he was going through hell. As they have an accident on the motorway, he takes the train up North and asks Julie to deal with the paperwork back home and take a later train. When Philippe arrives at the post office, he announces the bad news to his employees. He tells them what he said to his wife about them and the region, which has little flattering. The four Northerners are mad at him at first but when Julie arrives at the Lille station, they turn up in a big van talking loudly and rudely and emptying countless cans of beer, just as the Northerners are traditionally portrayed as, trying to help Philippe put Julie off and persuade her to go back home. They pull up at an old mining area that they make her believe is Bergues and use an empty slum that they make her believe Philippe lives in. The 4 post office employees and several other locals have staged a whole scenario in the old mine pretending the mine is still open, organised a scary dinner outdoors, and make Julie believe that they are eating cat meat. Philippe tells Julie that she can't stay but Julie refuses to leave him and feels it is her duty to stay and support him in his ordeal. Philippe is obviously embarrassed that she wants to stay in that old mine, realises that she loves him and Antoine prompts him to tell her the truth. He even calls Philippe a coward when he says that he won't; therefore, Philippe has a golden opportunity to tell Antoine that he should be the last person to call anyone a coward as he is clearly one himself when it comes to his mother. Antoine has a rude awakening and decides once and for all to announce his mother that he is going to leave home to live with Annabelle. Surprisingly, his mother reacts well. Soon enough, Julie finds out herself that it was all staged and discovers that the old mine has nothing to do with Bergues. Annabelle has to explain her everything as Julie finds the real post office where they work. Upset at her husband's lies, Julie decides to go back home and Philippe asks her to think carefully. Antoine's mother turns up at the post office, where Annabelle greets her just as politely as she can, announces her that Antoine has left home, congratulates her and sends her wishes of happiness with him. Annabelle is obviously taken by surprise. Antoine has only one more thing to do: propose to her. With Philippe's encouragements, he displays a proposal message on a bed sheet on top of the carillon in the middle of the night. An emotional Annabelle accepts and points out she has been waiting for that moment for a long time. Back South, Philippe makes a parallel proposal to ask Julie to move back in with him up North. Julie accepts and moves along with her son, and they are invited to Antoine and Annabelle's wedding. However after 3 years, Philippe receives a letter from the HR sending him back to work in a French seaside location. Even though it was what they initially wished for, he and his family leave the North with regrets. He cries when he leaves just as when he arrived, as Antoine expected he would. Several locals are there to wave goodbye and Antoine and Annabelle, with her baby bump, promise to visit them on holiday.