Our most cinephilic francophiles head to the 2015 Melbourne French Film Festival. These are their reviews.
We continue our Melbourne French Film Festival Review Series with our guest blogger, Cathleen, and her review of Eric Lartigau’s 2014 film La Famille Bélier (The Bélier Family).
La Famille Bélier follows the story of Paula, a young girl from a deaf-mute family who discovers she has a talent for singing. Paula’s music teacher sees her potential, encouraging her to nurture this raw talent and enter a national competition that could see her perform with a prestigious choir in Paris. Struggling to balance school, romance, work on the family farm and evening rehearsals, Paula is torn: should she follow her dreams and abandon her family, who rely heavily on her as their interpreter, or stay and possibly regret the missed opportunity forever?
Actress Louane Emera is wonderful as Paula – a typical moody teenager who loves her family fiercely despite being thoroughly embarrassed by them. She is supported by a magnificent cast: her teacher, M. Thomasson, whose sardonic tone belies a genuine sweetness and desire to see his students succeed; her father, Rodolphe, gruff and determined to stand for election in the face of what some see as a “disability”; her mother, Gigi, overly sentimental and hilariously melodramatic about her two children; and her younger brother, Quentin, whose affections for Paula’s best friend, Mathilde, get him into some unexpected trouble.
Dialogue that might have been rather sparse on paper has translated beautifully in this rich and expressive film: scenes where the Bélier family argue furiously in sign language are made all the more poignant or arresting by their soundlessness. The film’s sadder moments are tempered by an irreverent humour that characterises many French comedies. La Famille Bélier manages to be both laugh-out-loud funny and touching without ever descending into the saccharine. It’s an immensely entertaining film that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure.
Catch La Famille Bélier at the festival here.
By Cathleen Benevento.