An unlikely friendship is the heartbeat to this undeniably sweet French drama My Afternoons with Margueritte.
That actor Gereard Depardieu can still deliver the goods after appearing in over 180 films has to be something of a cinematic miracle. Maybe it’s his love of wine that gives him the edge.
Regardless, Depardieu is as charming as ever in My Afternoons with Margueritte. He stars as Germain, an illiterate handyman who is tolerated by his friends and despised by his bitter mother (Claire Maurier and played in flashbacks by Anne Le Guernec).
He then meets Margueritte (Gisele Casaduses) and elderly woman who becomes a friend and maternal figure. She sees sweetness and potential in Germain, and reads to him while they share their afternoons feeding pigeons in the local park. Yes, they do sit on a park bench and no, there is not a box of chocolates in sight.
An adaptation of the novel by Marie-Sabine Roger, My Afternoons with Margueritte is a film that rightly earns the title of “feel good comedy”, yet under the direction of Jean Becker it doesn’t resort to sappy lows, thanks to the depth of these characters and the convictions found in the performances.
Depardieu appears in almost every scene and effortlessly switches from drama, anger, comedy, and sadness with ease. Yet it is the moments with Casaduses that are the best, with the 97 (!) year old actress masterfully expressing her character’s love for literature with poised, eloquent summations. As she reads we along with Depardieu are drawn into the magic and power of her words, made even more effective through Becker’s use of re-enactments.
Becker also uses flashbacks to add more meat to Germain’s internal pain, with glimpses into his psychologically abusive upbringing at home and in school, where even the teachers take pot shots at his illiteracy.
Yet while heavy drama does feature, in the end My Afternoons with Margueritte should be seen as a unique love story, funny and heartbreaking with two veteran actors delivering fine performances.