‘Our Futures’ (‘Nos Futurs’): Film Review

Gaumont Distribution
A twisting, downtrodden trip down memory lane.

Remi Bezancon’s latest dramedy stars Pio Marmai and Pierre Rochefort.

Mixing nostalgic middlebrow dramedy with a plot straight out of The Sixth Sense, Remi Bezancon’s Our Futures (Nos Futurs) manages to both surprise and disappoint, failing to deliver sufficient laughs while using a late third-act reveal to make it all seem worthwhile. It’s a shaky setup that the writer-director of Gallic crowdpleasers like The First Day of the Rest of Your Life and A Happy Event peppers with his usual stylistic polish, once again casting the affable Pio Marmai as the lead.

Released locally late July, Bezancon’s fifth feature looks to have less of a box office future than his previous hits (Life racked up more than 1.2 million admissions in 2009), but should find a decent audience on French television and in a few Euro theatrical outlets. Overseas action should include fests and Francophone film weeks.

Between Hot Tub Time Machine, Wet Hot American Summer and France’s Bis, there has been no shortage of mainstream fare revisiting the big hair halcyon days of the 1980’s, usually in the form of broad throwback comedy. Bezancon, along with co-writers Vanessa Portal and Jean-Francois Halin, takes some cues from those movies while attempting something closer to Arnaud Desplechin’s Cannes hit My Golden Days – though minus that film’s emotional sway and psychological insights.

Yann (Pierre Rochefort) is a successful insurance broker who’s also miserably bored with himself, even if longtime girlfriend Estelle (Melanie Bernier) does her best to keep her man happy. When she organizes a surprise birthday party on Yann’s behalf, the latter ignores most of his guests while fixating on a box of photos from his high school years, including some of his former best bro, Thomas (Marmai).

The next day, Yann contacts Thomas out of the blue, and, much to his surprise, finds that his buddy has remained more or less unchanged since they were teens: He still wears a denim jacket, rides an old scooter and lives in a maid’s room filled with classic rock posters and ‘80’s tchotchkes, including a working Minitel (the French predecessor to the Internet). He hasn’t grown up at all, while Yann has become the sort of dull businessman the two friends would have scoffed at back in the day.

In order to get their old groove back, the pair decides to recreate the epic high school bash they keep reminiscing about, although it soon becomes clear that not everything went well that night. As Yann and Thomas set out on a road trip to enlist their other former classmates, Bezancon provides a few clues that will lead up to the big reversal in the last reel – in a twist that recalls the various narrative shenanigans of M. Night Shyamalan, not to mention the infamous 9th season of the original Dallas.

Many will see the ending as a total cop-out, which it sort of is. At the same time, it manages to give weight to much of what preceded it, turning Our Futures into a rather heavy trip down memory lane (the French title is a play on the punk slogan “No Future”). Like in Bezancon’s other films, this one pushes its characters – Yann especially – to accept the realities of life, and there’s a similar drive here to tell a coming-of-age story about people who’ve already come of age, yet remain immature.

Unfortunately the finale is not enough to make the rest of the movie work, and the comic hijinks engaged in by Marmai and Rochefort throughout the middle section are of an extremely lackluster variety. Both actors nonetheless provide endearing turns, and budding talent Rochefort (son of the great Jean Rochefort) manages to make Yann’s pain feel real as he faces the dark secret that’s been haunting him for decades.

Tech credits are slickly assembled, with regular DP Antoine Monod giving certain sequences an ethereal quality that seesaws between fantasy and the real world.

Production companies: Mandarin Cinema, Gaumont, France 2 Cinema, Magic Paper
Cast: Pio Marmai, Pierre Rochefort, Melanie Bernier, Kyan Khojandi, Camille Cottin, Laurence Arne, Roxane Mesquida
Director: Remi Bezancon
Screenwriters: Remi Bezancon, Vanessa Portal, Jean-Francois Halin
Producers: Isabelle Grellat, Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer
Director of photography: Antoine Monod
Production designer: Maamar Ech-Cheikh
Costume designer: Marie-Laure Lasson
Editor: Fabrice Rouaud
Composer: Pierre Adenot
Casting directors: Nadia Nataf, Dorothee Auboiron
International sales: Gaumont

No rating, 97 minutes