Life goes on and on
THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE/LE PREMIER JOUR DU RESTE DE TA VIE
IS THERE a name for that genre of film that visits several discrete incidents evenly scattered through a lengthy period in the life of a character or a family? Well, there should be. It’s an irresistible form that’s exploited to agreeable effect in this nice-looking French soap opera.
Focusing on an oddly classless (by British or Irish standards) Parisian family, The First Day of the Rest of Your Life takes in sex comedy, personal melodrama and coming-of-age story without too many jarring shifts in tone.
The wryly named Robert Duval (Jacques Gamblin) is a taxi driver living, thanks to his snooty father, in a posh house surrounded by much greenery. The rest of the family comprises Mrs Duval (Zabou Breitman), an angsty survivor of the counter-culture, and three children: slacker Raphael (Marc-Andre Grondin), grunge fan Fleur (Deborah Francois) and reserved medical student Albert (Pio Marmai).
As the story focuses on five important days in the characters’ lives – heading off to college, a significant medical appointment and so on – this easy-going picture does a decent job of charting a complex net of relationships over several decades. Sometimes the kids appear to be maturing. Sometimes they seem to be getting more and more stubborn. The parents, despite troubles, gain a kind of understanding, and the story (unlike life) drifts towards a tying up of loose ends.
Owing something to the FrenchCanadian sleeper C.R.A.Z.Y, Remi Bezancon’s picture manages the tricky business of summoning up various eras while maintaining a clean narrative thread. The acting is strong and the cinematography consistently pretty.
On the downside, the film is only about 50 per cent as smart and 25 per cent as cool as it thinks itself to be. Lou Reed’s A Perfect Day is a magnificent song, but any filmmaker who still turns to it when seeking to spread poignancy about the place needs to take a visit to the record shop. Do they still have such things?
I’m too cool for this film