The Grocer’s son (Le fils de l’épicier) written and directed by Éric Guirado, is superb. As usual, I’m too lazy and too unskilled to write a proper review. So I’ll steal some quotes from Stephen Holden’s excellent review (NYT 6 Jun 08) to do the job.
The rolling countryside of Provence may be a dream vacation spot, but it is the last place in the world that Antoine (Nicolas Cazalé, pictured), the sullen 30-year-old protagonist of The Grocer’s Son would like to be. … Antoine reluctantly returns to his rural hometown after 10 years in the big city when his father (Daniel Duval) has a heart attack.
… As the movie affectionately observes the gruff, self-reliant customers, some of whom hobble to the van on canes, it has a documentary like realism. You grow to respect these hardy, weather-beaten people who lived their whole lives close to the land.
Antoine brings to his customers the same surly, put-upon attitude with which he confronted his superiors in urban restaurants where he held and lost a succession of waiter’s jobs. Brusque and detached, he repeatedly offends old folks whom his father had befriended on his rounds. Even when they voice their disgruntlement, Antoine doesn’t seem to notice.
It is only when he is joined by Claire (Clotilde Hesme), a free-spirited friend visiting from the city, that his attitude begins to soften. … Slowly Antoine warms to the rural environment he turned his back on and, almost despite himself, begins to feel a tentative happiness and community spirit. Mr. Cazalé’s subtle performance makes his transformation entirely believable and prevents this cautiously upbeat movie from curdling into a sentimental advertisement for the simple life.
His performance is matched by Paul Crauchet’s and Liliane Rovère’s sharp thumbnail portraits of two regular customers … an increasingly frail widowed farmer who trades fresh eggs for staples … [and] a haughty, self-sufficient woman with a past, [who] is softhearted under a prickly exterior and has a wicked, deadpan sense of humor. …
The Grocer’s Son is a triumphant accumulation of such quirky, perfectly observed details.