'Grand Depart': Film Review

Rialto Pictures
Despite its potentially powerful subject matter, the film is too lightweight to make much of an impact.

A workaholic learns to reassess his priorities when dealing with his elderly, mentally addled father.

A work-obsessed young man learns to embrace adulthood in Nicolas Mercier’s drama about two brothers dealing with their elderly father's struggle with an Alzheimer’s-like disease. Handling its sensitive subject matter in a frequently lighthearted tone, Grand Depart is intent on mining the situation for quirky, relationship-based humor, but is only sporadically successful. More notable for its small, incisive moments than as a moving depiction of the way that familial relationships are affected by life crises, the film makes only a minor impact.

Single, 29-year-old Romain (Pio Marmai) concentrates on his business career above all else, clearly intent on keeping up with his successful screenwriter brother, Luc (Jeremie Elkaim), who lives an essentially carefree existence. Romain finds his life turned upside down when his divorced father, George (Eddy Mitchell), suddenly begins showing signs of dementia, which clearly reveal the need for his being put into a facility. Fortunately, Romain's business connections enable him to place his father in a luxury nursing home where his violent tendencies quickly prove a complicating factor.

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But along the way, Romain manages to reconnect with his father, who definitely has interludes of lucidity, in a way he never has before. Taking long walks through the streets of Paris, they reassess their long-troubled relationship, prompting the son to reorganize the priorities in his life. Meanwhile, he comes into conflict with his brother, who unilaterally makes the decision to allow the facility to give their father antipsychotic drugs that have unfortunate side effects.

Although his constant attentions to his father cause him no end of trouble at work, Romain discovers his lighthearted side, desperately wooing Luc’s beautiful friend Serena (Zoe Felix), who rebuffs his advances even when he rakishly dresses up as Zorro for a costume party.

Frequently playing for laughs, as in an amusing scene in a funeral home where the brothers can’t stop themselves from bursting into hysterical laughter while going through the painful process of picking out a casket for their father, the film ultimately lacks the depth to make us sufficiently care for its central character. Despite the generally effective performances -- the veteran Mitchell movingly conveys his addled character’s refusal to go gently into that good night -- it bears too personal a stamp to have universal resonance.

Opens May 23 (Rialto Premieres)

Production: Studiocanal, France 2 Cinema

Cast: Pio Marmai, Jeremie Elkaim, Eddy Mitchell, Chantal Lauby, Charlotte de Turckheim, Zoe Felix

Director: Nicholas Mercier

Screenwriters: Nicolas Mercier, Simone Study

Producer: Bruno Levy

Director of photography: Remy Chevrin

Editor: Guerric Catala

Production designer: Stanislas Reydellet

Costume designer: Anne Schotte

Composer: Francois-Eudes Chanfrault

Not rated, 86 minutes

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