The Grocer's Son Delivers

The Grocer’s Son (Le fils de l’épicier)

Directed by Eric Guirado

96 mins. In French with subtitles, NR (Brief nudity)


This 2008 French film is enjoying a very small run in theaters--so small in fact, that’s it unlikely to show up in your neck of the woods unless you have a thriving art cinema near by. Luckily, it’s on DVD and you’d do well to put this one near the top of your Netflix queue.

It’s essentially a modern-day retelling of the Prodigal Son parable, except that this son, Antoine Sforza (Nicolas Cazalé), has no desire to be welcomed home. On the contrary, even though he’s living is a down-market flat in Lyon and is between jobs, he’ be happy if he never had to see either of his parents again, let alone set foot in his Rhône-Alpes village hometown. But when his tyrannical father (Daniel Duval) suffers a debilitating heart attack, Antoine’s desperate mother (Jeanne Goupil) convinces Antoine to return home to run the family grocery concern until the old man is back on his feet. In this part of France, a mountainous region adjacent to Provence, as often as not, grocers go to their clients rather than sitting in the shop waiting for trade.

Antoine is able to convince a neighbor, Claire (Clotilde Hesme) to accompany him to the boonies. Claire has had some bumps of her own and hopes to return to college to get our life back on track. She sees the trip as an opportunity for some study solitude as she prepares for her entrance exam, and she’s so focused she doesn’t see that the shy Antoine is in love with her. As you might expect, Claire’s solitude will be interrupted by the unfolding Sforza family drama.

You could pretty much write the script from here. The Grocer’s Son won’t win any prizes for originality, but it is--as the French say, charmant. The surly Antoine finds himself behind the wheel of a creaky van driving from village to village, where old folks come out to buy food a single egg or can of peas at a time. The story is pretty much one of redemption in which the grocer’s son, his family, Claire, and the business itself are transformed. Of special delight are two delicious roles played by older actors. Paul Crauchet plays an elderly widower whose mind, eyes, body, and property are failing, but he does so with such tenderness that he could melt a stone. But even he is upstaged by Lilliane Rovere as Luciene, a former coquet who now reigns as the region’s opinionated and acidic queen of eccentricity, infuriation, and outlandishness. When she’s on the screen, one can look nowhere else. Luciene is the sort of person you’d want to invite to tea, just so you can wring her neck!

The Grocer’s Son is populated by people with hard edges and soft insides. As a film it’s akin to the twisty mountain roads Antoine drives--from afar you can see everything that’s coming, but it’s all so darned nice that we want to go there anyhow. And when you arrive, you’ll smile and be glad you took the trip.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thrilled to know there is only 'brief nudity.' Anything more might receice a parcel from Yemen.