Quand je serai petit: Film Review

A sentimental family drama that can’t sustain its supernatural premise.

Jean-Paul Rouve's family drama offers up a few tender moments within an otherwise contrived scenario.

PARIS--Actor turned director Jean-Paul Rouve (Nobody Else But You) takes a second stab behind the camera with Quand je serai petit, an offbeat family dramedy about a man whose encounter with his 10-year-old doppelganger unlocks the keys to a troubled past. Not unlike Noemie Lvovksy’s Cannes entry Camille Rewinds or the recent Juliette Binoche-starrer Another Woman’s Life, this tale of a mid-life crisis brought on by a Back to the Future-style phenomenon offers up a few tender moments within an otherwise contrived scenario, and its initial surprises soon give way to predictability and an overdose of sentiment.

With Rouve playing the lead role and a supporting cast featuring Benoit Poelvoorde (Le Grand Soir), Gilles Lellouche (The Players), Xavier Beauvois and vets Claude Brasseur and Miou-Miou, the film should see decent local returns for its modest June 13th release. Overseas action will include Francophone territories and French fests, although further art house play for this eccentric but ultimately generic sophomore effort looks unlikely.

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During a North Sea cruise with his wife (Arly Jover), 40-something landscape architect Mathias (Rouve) spots a boy (Miljan Chatelain) who looks awfully familiar. Obsessed with this bizarre sighting, Mathias travels from Paris to stalk the young man in the northern town of Dunkirk, and soon discovers that the look-alike is also named Mathias and has the same set of parents, except that they’re three decades younger. In a nutshell, Mathias and his family circa 1982 have somehow been cloned and reincarnated into the present day, for no other clear reason than allowing the older Mathias to deal with various childhood issues that have remained unresolved.

If it takes a certain leap of faith to accept the far-fetched scenario (co-written with Benoit Graffin, Priceless), Rouve manages to intrigue in the early reels by ignoring the plot’s more supernatural elements, focusing instead on the emotional repercussions of what Mathias is experiencing. A few such captivating moments, including a lengthy bus ride where he observes his younger self with both pleasure and awe, avoid the kind of heavy sentimentality that the film succumbs to in its all-too foreseeable third act.

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Backed by an uncharacteristically low key turn from Poelvoorde as Mathias’ happy-go-lucky dad, Quand je serai petit (which translates roughly to When I’ll Grow Young) is not without certain small charms, but its effect is muted by a premise that’s awfully hard to accept from start to finish, and would have perhaps benefited from a tad more humor and a lot less pathos.

As in Rouve’s 2008 heist biopic, The Easy Way, the tech package features sleek widescreen cinematography by Christophe Offenstein (Tell No One), who compellingly captures the hazy beachfront landscapes where Mathias’ phantom family resides. Soundtrack by French electro-pop singer/composer Emilie Simone (March of the Penguins) is another plus.

Opens: In France (June 13)

Production companies: Elia Films, Les Films du Monsieur, Mars Films, Scope Pictures

Cast: Jean-Paul Rouve, Benoit Poelvoorde, Arly Jover, Lisa Martino, Miou-Miou, Claude Brasseur, Xavier Beauvois, Gilles Lellouche

Director: Jean-Paul Rouve

Screenwriters: Jean-Paul Rouve, Benoit Graffin

Producer: Pauline Duhault

Director of photography: Christophe Offenstein

Production designer: Laurent Ott

Music: Emilie Simon

Costume designer: Carine Sarfati

Editor: Marie-Julie Maille

Sales Agent: Elia Films

No rating, 94 minutes

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