Going Away (Un beau dimanche): Berlin Review

Les Films Pelleas
A well-acted, impressionistic drama that loses steam in its second half.

Louise Bourgoin (“The Girl From Monaco”) and Pierre Rochefort (“Farewell, My Queen”) star in actress-turned-filmmaker Nicole Garcia’s latest drama.

After starring in such classics as Alain ResnaisMon oncle d’Amerique and Michel Deville’s Death in a French Garden, actress-turned-director Nicole Garcia continues her extended stint behind the camera with her latest atmospheric drama, Going Away (Un beau dimanche). Featuring fine performances from leads Louise Bourgoin and Pierre Rochefort, but marred by a script that heads to interesting places before going nowhere special in its third act, this very French affair should see a few art house pickups and film week selections following a midsize local release.

If Jean-Luc Godard once quipped that all you need to make a movie is “a girl and a gun,” a more upscale Gallic version of the formula could be: “All you need is a gorgeous girl and an even more gorgeous country house.”

Such is the setting for at least part of this impressionistic and moody two-hander (written by Garcia and regular co-scribe Jacques Fieschi), which begins with a lengthy sequence showing a down-and-out teacher, Baptiste (Rochefort), scraping by in the south of France until he crosses paths with a fifth grade student, Mathias (Mathias Brezot), whose parents forgot to pick him up from school.

Baptiste eventually takes Mathias to the beachfront restaurant where his mother, Sandra (Bourgoin), works as a waitress, attempting to keep herself afloat while paying off a debt for a business deal gone awry. When a pair of money-hungry thugs drops by to rough her up, Baptiste offers to help, carting mother and child away to a place he’s spent a good deal of his life avoiding but that may provide their only solution.

Up to this point, the film offers up a reasonable level of intrigue, slowly building up the romance between Baptiste and Sandra while keeping things mysterious as to the former’s troubled past. A scene in which the burgeoning couple goes on a date and Baptiste drinks way more than he can handle does a good job showing how the two form a problematic pair whose mutual dependence may be their only salvation.

Yet once they arrive at the magnificent estate where Baptiste’s family resides, things turn rather heavy-handed, with the haute bourgeoisie clan — headed by an icy matriarch (legendary actress Dominique Sanda, The Conformist) — frowning upon their prodigal son’s crusty lifestyle while relegating Sandra to the kitchen. Eventually, Baptiste’s dark secret comes out, but it feels altogether underwhelming, as does his relationship with Sandra, which is given little room to blossom during the third act.

Despite its late shortcomings, Going Away demonstrates Garcia’s ability to coax strong performances out of a relatively young cast, with newcomer Rochefort (son of Garcia and the great Jean Rochefort) offering up an impressively subdued leading turn, and former weather girl Bourgoin (The Girl From Monaco) proving that she can tackle dark roles without losing her ample charms.

Working with director Laurent Cantet’s usual DP Pierre Milon, Garcia here crafts a highly appealing visual scheme, setting the action amid a backdrop of sun-drenched beaches and rolling hillsides whose beauty conceals a world that’s significantly less attractive.

Production: Les Films Pelleas, France 3 Cinema, Pauline’s Angel, Appaloosa Distribution

Cast: Louise Bourgoin, Pierre Rochefort, Dominique Sanda, Deborah Francois, Eric Ruf

Director: Nicole Garcia

Screenwriters: Jacques Fieschi, Nicole Garcia

Producer: Philippe Martin

Director of photography: Pierre Milon

Production designer: Veronique Barneoud

Costume designers: Nathalie du Roscoat, Elisabeth Tavernier

Editor: Simon Jacquet

Music: Eric Neveux

Sales: Wild Bunch

No rating, 95 minutes