My Afternoons with Margueritte (2010)
Starring: Gérard Depardieu, Gisèle Casadesus, Maurane, Patrick Bouchitey, Jean-François Stévenin
Director: Jean Becker
Year of Release: 2010
Run Time: 82 minutes
Genre: Foreign (French)
Reviewer: Patricia Wellingham-Jones
Synopsis: An almost-illiterate handyman and a 95-year-old woman who loves books strike up an unlikely friendship on a park bench.
One day, Germain, an oversize, overweight handyman in his 50s, walks in the town park and sits down to rest. Already on the bench is the small, fragile Margueritte, 95, reading aloud from one of her favorite books. From this awkward beginning springs a friendship that changes both lives. Margueritte faces uncertainty about health and housing (Casadesus, herself 95 at the time of filming, plays her with exquisite grace), Germain has been sneered at and belittled for stupidity all his life (Depardieu shows the man’s pain and confusion).
Time passes, Margueritte introduces Germain to the stories in books, the joy found in words on a page, the satisfaction of conquering reading for himself and to her. He gains self-respect; she gains a cherished friend who, in a somewhat predictable finale, rescues her from a sad fate.
The film is character-driven, as are many French films, and not a lot of action occurs, though Germain’s hateful mother causes a blink or two. The viewer becomes involved in the small lives of the lead characters and comes to care what happens to them. The love that grows between them isn’t erotic, perhaps all the more powerful for that, and beautiful to watch develop and flourish. The film is sentimental, yes, and rich and moving.