My Soul Healed By You (Mon ame par toi guerie): San Sebastian Review

Naturalistic performances and assembly are overshadowed by a messy plot.

French writer-director Francois Dupeyron's adaptation of his own novel stars Gregory Gadebois, Celine Sallette and Jean-Pierre Darroussin.

PARIS -- A Frenchman is forced to deal with his inherited gift after his healer mother’s off-screen death in the drama My Soul Healed By You (Mon ame par toi guerie), from writer-director Francois Dupeyron (The Officer's Ward, Monsieur Ibrahim).

The film’s based on Dupeyron’s own novel (with a fantastic, much more evocative title that roughly translates as Every Man for Himself, as God Doesn’t Give a Shit) and is mostly a middle-of-the-road indie despite its unusual premise, though it again neatly showcases the talents of actor Gregory Gadebois, the somewhat portly and affable male protagonist from Alix Delaporte’s Angele and Tony.      

Part of the competition at the recent San Sebastian Film Festival, the film was also released last week in France, where it should do modest numbers theatrically before finding its way to upscale TV outlets. 

Gadebois is Fredi, a man in early middle age who grew up in a trailer park and whose mother died five weeks before the film starts. His elderly father (veteran actor Jean-Pierre Darroussin) isn’t a man of many words and Fredi isn’t exactly the type to solicit them, either. It emerges that Fredi has inherited his mother’s gift for faith healing, through the laying on of his hands, though it’s not something he wants to admit, let alone consider.

Things change when Fredi’s involved in an accident and a young boy ends up in a coma in a hospital and he’s tempted to right the wrong he’s caused -- he’s a teetotaler who swerved on his motorbike to avoid a dog crossing the road -- by secretly using his gift.

It’s an interesting conceit that Dupeyron never fully develops or exploits and there’s a general messiness to the film’s plotting (especially the introduction of new characters such as Celine Sallette’s alcoholic excuse for a human being, Nina, and the members of Fredi's inner circle) and the characters’ motivations that feels less like real life than an undisciplined screenwriting exercise in naturalism.    

That said, the film’s entirely naturalistic in terms of its lived-in performances and its approach to faith healing -- it’s just taken for granted that it's something that exists and is out there -- as well as on a technical level, with Dupeyron keeping terrific d.p. (and occasional director) Yves Angelo’s camera quite close to his characters as they move around while keeping the length of the shots long, further reinforcing the you-are-there feeling. The gorgeous sunlight of the south of France that Angelo captures even manages to suggest that the working-class, almost white-trash milieu depicted can also occasionally be touched by grace.   

For the record, some press materials refer to the film as One of a Kind, though the English title used in the San Sebastian catalog was My Soul Healed By You, an ungainly if literal version of the French title.

Production companies: Alfama Films, Kinology

Cast: Gregory Gadebois, Celine Sallette, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Marie Payen, Philippe Rebbot, Marie Pratali, Agathe Dronne, Nathalie Boutefeu, Stephan Wojtowicz, Anthony Paliotti  

Writer-director: Francois Dupeyron, screenplay based on his novel Chacun pour soi, Dieu s’en fout

Producer: Paulo Branco

Director of photography: Yves Angelo

Costume designer: Catherine Bouchard

Editor: Dominique Faysse

Sales: Kinology

No rating, 124 minutes