Oh Brothers, where art thou going with this?
Courtney), a slow thinker, and young Scwally (TJ Griffin). Times are grim. The boys’ father, played in glimpses by DonWycherley, is slowly dying and money doesn’t seem to be in great supply.
When bullies break his dad’s watch – a cheap item with great sentimental value – Noel decides to embark on a small odyssey to secure a replacement. The timepiece came from a claw-grab arcade game in Ballybunion, and Noel believes (slightly illogically, it must be said) that this is the only place redemption can be achieved. Paudie and Scwally tag along.
Despite the shortness of the journey, the characters manage to encounter an extraordinary degree of colourful incident. They evade an impressively vile roadside pederast. They get to watch a 3D movie. In a rather beautiful moment of forgivable trickery, words are spelt out in the open air with sparklers.
This scattershot visual poetry does occasionally get out of hand (a dying whale?) but the three young actors do enough to lift the picture above the ordinary. Creed is touching. Griffin manages to be alternately annoying and adorable. But, as the awkward Paudie, Courtney proves to be a character actor of some brilliance. Let’s see more of him. THERE’S A lonely rhythm to Anne’s quiet existence. She jogs. She chops vegetables. She smokes. She eats from saucepans. She never answers her ringing phone. She lies awake at night in her Bordeaux apartment. She teaches herself Portuguese from a book. She silently pushes trollies and purees vegetables at a low-ranking kitchen job. She ignores the flirtatious advances of dashing young chef Raphaël.
We can’t be sure why she follows an ursine fellow film buff after a screening of The Life of Oharu down a dark alleyway one evening. Her cool detachment only serves to frustrate him: “Do something,” he cries. “Hug me.” She doesn’t.
In the context of director Yves Caumon’s anatomy of grief, a miniature composed of tiny strokes, the flat, disappointing encounter passes for an explosive incident. Anne’s drama lies elsewhere and offscreen in a backstory we piece together: a dead son, a failed marriage and a retreat into stultifying routine.
Her unavailability is a constant source of frustration to others. “Saying ‘no’ to everything isn’t human,” rages Raphaël. “Don’t do this. It’s not fair,” sighs Anne’s exasperated ex-husband as they arrive to lay flowers on their child’s grave.
Sandrine Kilberlain has played a bereaved mother before, in Claude Miller’s Betty Fisher and Other Stories, and has a fine track record as an onscreen ice maiden. Here she finds new subtleties in gloomy reserve and lets her tall angular frame and slow, stultified blinks do most of the articulation.
Still, did we really need another French chamber piece anchored by, sigh, a bird in a cage? Will Anne ever set the pigeon she finds free? Will she, in turn, leave the safety of her nest? Will the dappled sunlight of Céline Bozon’s verdant cinematography give way to rain as the mood darkens?
The clichés keep coming. Everywhere Anne turns, there are people enjoying sex in storerooms and by riverbanks. It’s almost as if these couplings exist to counterpoint her crippling thanatos-thing with vitality.
Come to think of it, aren’t there clear parallels with the ruined heroine of Oharo? Oh, please. Plus ça change.
On the road: Timothy Creed, Paul Courtney and TJ Griffin
Sandrine Kilberlain in The Bird