Grocer's Son, The (France, 2007)

A movie review by James Berardinelli
Grocer's Son, The Poster

The Grocer's Son is a pleasant, low-key drama about the healing power of country life. While one could argue that is has been three decades since such a "back-to-nature" theme was in vogue, it makes for an effective background to the story of how one man, when freed from the stresses associated with living in a city, is able to re-connect with his family, the inhabitants of the countryside where he was raised, and the woman to whom he is attracted. Because the characters are well sculpted, the film is able to hold the viewer's attention even though the story is minimal and free of melodrama.

Ten years ago, Antoine (Nicolas Cazalé) shook the dust of his birthplace village from his feet and headed for the city, determined to make his mark in the world. Things haven't worked out as planned, however. Employed as a waiter, he has never realized his dreams of opening his own business. His has a girlfriend of sorts - Claire (Clotilde Hesme), a 26-year old divorcee who plans to go to school in Spain and with whom Antoine enjoys a platonic relationship. He'd like it to develop into something more, but he lacks the courage to broach the subject with Claire.

Things change for Antoine when his father (Daniel Duval) suffers a heart attack. Daniel must return to the countryside to help his mother (Jeanne Goupil) and brother, François (Stéphan Guérin-Tillié), run the family business, a grocery store. Antoine's job is to drive a truck around the area from locale to locale, setting up temporary stops where the nearby residents can buy things. His surly manner, however, earns him the disfavor of many of the regulars. This changes when Claire accompanies him on his second trip. The same sunny disposition that has captured Antoine's heart also captivates Antoine's customers, but rough times lie ahead.

The Grocer's Son is primarily about three relationships: Antoine and Claire, Antoine and his family, and Antoine and the local residents. Years of performing unfulfilling jobs in a high-stress environment have turned Antoine into a grouchy man. His father bears him a grudge for leaving and the old man's anger has poisoned the lines of communication. At first, Antoine returns home with the intention of leaving as soon as his father is well enough to resume the grocery route. Circumstances change, however, as the lure of living away from the city begins to grip him. He becomes a better person, is able to find ways to connect with his family, and allows the fear of losing Claire to Spain drain away.

Nothing profound happens during the course of The Grocer's Son. Director Eric Guirado has woven an endearing modern-day fable that offers a pleasant 90-minute respite from the worries to be found outside the theater doors. Although the film eschews conventional melodrama, it's not without an emotional core. We empathize with Antoine, in large part because we understand him. As he begins to forge relationships with customers and repair the burned bridges with his family, we feel the same sense of satisfaction that settles over him. The photography, evocative without being ostentatious, aids in transporting the viewer to this rural area of France. Once the end credits roll, one can be forgiven daydreaming about a vacation in a place much like the one to which necessity transports Antoine, and where he is given a new opportunity to live rather than merely exist.

Grocer's Son, The (France, 2007)

Director: Eric Guirado
Cast: Nicolas Cazalé, Clotilde Hesme, Jeanne Goupil, Daniel Duval, Stéphan Guérin-Tillié
Screenplay: Eric Guiardo, Florence Vignon
Cinematography: Laurent Brunet
U.S. Distributor: Film Movement
Run Time: 1:36
U.S. Release Date: 2008-06-06
MPAA Rating: "NR" (Profanity, Sexual Situations, Nudity)
Genre: DRAMA
Subtitles: English subtitled French
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1