Nuts (Ouf): Film Review

Nuts Film Poster Art - P 2013

Nuts Film Poster Art - P 2013

Gainsbourg star Elmosnino carries wry comedy about depressive determined to reconquer sweetheart.

Gainsbourg star Eric Elmosnino impresses in the romantic comedy from director Yann Coridian, about a recovering depressive determined to win back his sweetheart.

In his debut feature Yann Coridian, better known as a casting director, uses wry, downbeat humor to tackles the theme of nervous depression. The French title Ouf is both a verbal expression of relief and backslang for fou, meaning mad. The wordplay is indicative of an approach which may be too oblique for popular tastes but could appeal to more demanding audiences. The film's strongest selling-point is an engaging performance by Eric Elmosnino whose starring turn in Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life (2011)  won him numerous awards, notably at the Tribeca festival, and whose presence is the movie's best bet for commercial payoff.

Forty one-year-old Francois (Elmosnino) is first encountered emerging from a large cardboard box where he has been hiding while his partner Anna (Sophie Quinton) dresses up as Wonder Woman and prepares to take their children to a fancy-dress party. He has just been released from a mental institution following treatment for depression. Anna is determined to cut him out of her life, reproaching him with, among other excesses, attempting to set fire to their home. The film traces his desperate efforts to win her back.

Naturally Francois seeks support from his nearest and dearest: his mother, a practicing psychiatrist (Evelyne Buyle), his gadabout father (Luis Rego) and his brother (Michael Abiteboul), getting short shrift, or at best their distracted attention, in each case. His best friend Giovanna (Valeria Golino) does her best but is herself in emotionally straitened circumstances. Very soon Francois finds himself reinterned after attempting to break into Anna's flat through a fourth-floor window.

The movie asks the not-particularly-original question: who is it who's really mad here -- the depressive, who may have excellent reasons for feeling down, or the family and friends who condescend to him or ignore him, wrapped up in their own egotistical and often trivial routines. To ask the question is to answer it, and Elmosnino -- needy, vulnerable but determined and finally resourceful -- sets the spectator firmly on Francois' side.

There's not a great deal of plot and the movie meanders at times. The humor is gentle and often understated. Perhaps the funniest moment comes when Francois succeeds in reconciling a couple of sports instructors who are themselves engaged in a possibly terminal row.

At 82 minutes Nuts does just enough to earn its keep and is a good bet for the arthouse circuit, though it might have been better with a little more iron in its soul.

Opens: Thursday, Feb. 28
Production companies: Tabo Tabo Films, Motek Films
Cast: Eric Elmosnino, Sophie Quinton, Valeria Golino, Luis Rego, Evelyne Buyle, Anemone, Brigitte Sy, Michael Abiteboul
Director: Yann Coridian
Writers: Yann Coridian, Sophie Fillieres
Photography: Guillaume Deffontaines
Producers: Tonie Marshall, Florence Laneurie
Production Design: Jimmy Vansteenkiste
Editor: Laurence Briaud
Music: Lilly Wood & The Prick
Sales: MK2 Films
No MPAA rating
Running time: 82 minutes