My Afternoons with Margueritte, starring Gerard Depardieu, is a little Gallic charmer. Actually, it lays the charm on a little too thick to begin with, but soon settles down into a warm comic-drama about friendship and opening your mind and heart.
Okay, that sounds a little too twee but it's not that treacly. Depardieu is Germaine, a man who makes his living doing odds-jobs around town and selling the vegetables from his garden. He has a much younger girlfriend, a mother who seems to resent his existence, and so called friends who think him a buffoon; the latter two relationships expanded upon in flashback.
Then one day in the park he meets Margueritte (Gisele Casadesus), a kindly old woman whose love of books and reading encourages Germaine to improve his literacy. But as Germaine's appetite for reading increases, Margueritte's eyesight continues to fade, and pretty soon the student becomes the teacher.
The relationship that develops between Germaine and Margueritte is nicely handled, and Depardieu and the 95-year-old Casadesus have an easy chemistry. Sitting side-by-side on the park bench, they make for a humourous study in contrasts; Casadesus's petite frame opposite Depardieu's gregarious nature and impressive girth.
Adapted from the bestselling French novel by Marie-Sabine Roger (a Gallic Tuesdays with Morrie, perhaps?), writer-director Jean Becker's film (co-written with Jean-Loup Dabadie) is as light and warm as an oven fresh croissant, and just as comforting. And at a mere 82 minutes, it never outstays its welcome.
In fact, the ending seems a little rushed and overly pat. But never mind, it will leave you with a smile. And any film which promotes the importance and joy of books and reading is fine by me.