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KARLOVY VARY — A rare portrait of a happily divorced couple and the parental love that still binds them together, Tenderness is a sweet but slight European road movie from veteran Belgian director, writer and producer Marion Hansel. Most of the action takes place in Flaine, a purpose-built ski resort high in the French Alps, and almost feels like a commercial for the town’s modernist charms. Screened at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival last week, Tenderness has further festival potential and possible connoisseur theatrical appeal, particularly among Francophiles who miss the talk-heavy, delicately nuanced, unapologetically bourgeois chamber dramas of the late Eric Rohmer.
The film opens with a sublime aerial sequence, a dreamlike long shot of two skiers gliding gracefully down a high slope. An accident occurs, shifting the film’s focus north to Belgium. Galvanized by news that their ski-instructor son Jack (Adrien Jolivet) has been hospitalized, middle-aged divorcees Lisa (Marilyne Canto) and Frans (Olivier Gourmet) embark on a day-long journey across France to collect him and bring him home. Along the way they laugh and joke, bicker gently and reminisce fondly. Frans is a little pompous and given to casually racist remarks, while Lisa is neurotic and accident-prone, but Hansel indulges their flaws with non-judgmental detachment.
Arriving at the resort, the old couple find they have been booked into the same hotel room. A more clichéd script might have used this as a contrived excuse to rekindle their romance after 15 years apart, but Hansel clearly feels a stronger allegiance to truth than that. Following a meal with Jack and his budding ski-champ girlfriend Alison (Margaux Chatelier), the temporarily reunited family unit spend an uneventful night, then set off for home.
Conventionally shot on handsome 35mm, with an easy-listening soundtrack by Rene-Marc Bini, Tenderness mostly coasts along on the modest charms of its cast. A playful late cameo by Spanish star Sergi Lopez adds to the sense that this essentially is a picaresque succession of episodic snapshots with no deep dramatic message to impart. Nothing much happens, but these small events have the poignant, bittersweet texture of real life.
Production: Man’s Film Productions, ASAP Films, Neue Pegasos
Producers: Marian Hansel, Cedomir Kolar, Ernst Szebedits
Cast: Marilyne Canto, Olivier Gourmet, Adrien Jolivet, Margaux Chatelier
Director: Marion Hansel
Cinematographer: Jan Vancaille
Editor: Michele Hubinon
Music: René-Marc Bini
Sales: Doc & Film International
No rating, 78 minutes
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