The House By the Sea

The Observer - The New Review - - Film -

(107 mins, 12A) Di­rected by Robert Guédigu­ian; star­ring Ari­ane As­caride, Jean-Pierre Dar­roussin, Gérard Mey­lan

Mar­seille-based di­rec­tor Robert Guédigu­ian is a stal­wart of Gal­lic so­cial­ist cin­ema. To­gether with his reper­tory group of reg­u­lar col­lab­o­ra­tors, in­clud­ing Ari­ane As­caride, Jean-Pierre Dar­roussin and Gérard Mey­lan, he has un­show­ily ex­plored the sto­ries of work­ing­class south­ern France for more than three decades. Set in a sea­side town, his lat­est uses the ill health of a fa­ther to ex­plore fam­ily ten­sions, gen­tri­fi­ca­tion and the mi­grant cri­sis.

It’s well-mean­ing, and the nat­u­ral­is­tic per­for­mances are per­sua­sive. But there’s a cer­tain rheumatic stiff­ness to the writ­ing, which treads rather heav­ily as it ne­go­ti­ates themes that would ben­e­fit from a lighter step. Guédigu­ian uses clips from one of his ear­lier films, Ki Lo Sa?, to pro­vide flash­back. It’s a strik­ing con­trast; there’s a breezy fizz to that film that is, un­der­stand­ably, ab­sent in this muted ac­count of a sad­der time. But this melan­choly is, oc­ca­sion­ally, used with real el­e­gance, in par­tic­u­lar in a wrench­ingly poignant scene that unites the small com­mu­nity fol­low­ing an un­ex­pected dou­ble tragedy.

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