I’ve had a rum week, as we say in East Anglia, for arthouse family dramas. This one was so bad that I had to think of things to think about to get through it – and wanted to give ovation at the end – that it had ended. Having been drawn into the world of Michel Gondry through Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I have given him a couple of goes since – with less success. I like his refusal to take on film making conventions and the charm of his stop motion animation.
The promised animation here in this documentary about Michel’s aunt is overhyped; there is little of Gondry’s magic. Although a strong character and perhaps a matriarch and inspirational teacher, she is not compelling or likeable enough to an outsider to be the subject of this piece.
Sight and Sound’s reviewer has read all my thoughts, although has been more generous than I. I concur that the film is generally of little interest to non Gondries; and that the highlight is the invisible clothing scene – to which I add: what strange questions to pitch to children – and from an experienced teacher!
Most of all, I agree that the most engaging part of the film was the strained relationship between aunt Suzette and her son. Shockingly, the film’s title comes from Suzette’s statement about her gay offspring who had a breakdown, claimed he was made to work for a decade in the family sawmill against his will, and who was kept from news that his father had died. I felt anger at Michel making Suzette dredge up tears for her husband’s death or talk about very painful episodes with her son, Jean Yves. But there was no hope or healing that we saw, and so the scenes seemed offered up as voyeuristic reality TV rather than anything that could help them or satisfy the audience with any resolution. The final viewing scene was the most contrived over misery cast plenary since Peter’s Friends.