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Marius Et Jeannette Review

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Jeannette is a mouthy checkout girl from the Depression-hit Mediterranean port of L'Estaque, battling to bring up two children, each by a different father.

★★★★

It's not often that British audiences get a chance to view the French equivalent of the kitchen sink dramas that have been a staple of our film industry for nigh on 40 years. Consequently this will come as something of a shock to those who equate French cinema with sophisticated dialogue, flowing camera work and ridiculously chic casts.

Jeannette (Ascaride) is a mouthy checkout girl from the Depression-hit Mediterranean port of L'Estaque, who has battled to bring up two children, each by a different father. So when Marius (Meylan), a security guard with a fake limp and a soft centre expresses an interest, she lowers her defences and drifts into an affair. But a secret fear looks set to keep Marius from making a commitment, until he gets drunk, that is.

This is like watching Barbara Windsor getting off with Ricky Tomlinson in a high-rise block in Greenwich. But don't let that put you off. Recalling both Marcel Pagnol's Marius trilogy and the poetic realist pictures produced by the likes of Rene Clair and Jean Renoir in the early 30s, this is a rough-cut gem, with Ascaride outstanding as the gutsy working-class mum struggling for survival on her own terms. But there's quirkiness to spare in her neighbours, of whom Jean-Pierre Darroussin stands out as a politically retarded slob.

Discussions about the failure of communism, the subtle similarities between Catholicism and Islam and the architectural value of a post-industrial landscape won't be most people's idea of entertainment. But those who take the plunge won't be disappointed.

Guediguian observes this rich pageant with an unobtrusive camera and a wry smile.

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