Rue Mandar: Film Review

Rue Mandar - Film Still
French Jewish family dramedy could use more chutzpah.

Sandrine Kiberlain and Emmanuelle Devos star in Idit Cebula's family dramedy about three French-Jewish sibilings coping with their mother's death.

PARIS -- The inheritance of an apartment on the Rue Mandar leads to a host of sibling rivalries, squabbles and nonstop kvetching in writer-director Idit Cebula’s uneven family dramedy. Featuring strong performances from a cast lead by Sandrine Kiberlain, Richard Berry and Emmanuelle Devos, the film is nonetheless too rambling and predictable to find much traction beyond Jewish and Gallic film weeks, although some small-scale art house pickups are possible outside France.

When their beloved Polish immigrant mother passes away, sisters Emma (Kiberlain) and Rosemonde (Devos), and their brother, Charles (Berry), are obliged to deal with the personal and physical aftereffects, which include the cozy, old fashioned flat where she lived on the movie’s titular street (located in the heart of Paris’ chic 2nd arrondissement).

While Emma spent the last decade working as a translator in Tel-Aviv, Rosemonde, a nervous wreck of a psychiatrist, and Charles, a whiny patriarch who mourns by compulsively renovating his own apartment, have been begrudgingly minding the family affairs. After mom’s body is buried and much faster than you can say shiva, the infighting and weeping begins, and then hardly lets up until things inexplicably mellow out during a denouement that never seems justified -- while a final twist involving the building’s boozing concierge is just plain lame.

Movies like Ronit Elkabetz’s 7 Days or Axelle Ropert’s The Wolberg Family have tackled similar themes and milieus more effectively, although former actress Cebula (Blue, Crimson Rivers 2) deserves kudos for coaxing engaging turns out of the cast, with Kiberlain (Mademoiselle Chabon) adding nuance to a character who never seems fully sketched out in the script (co-written with Emmanuelle Michelet). Devos (Kings & Queen) does a decent job as the rather cliched neurotic shrink, while Berry’s character, with all his lecturing and sourpussing, is hard to latch on to.

Tech credits are solid, with D.P. Remy Chevrin (Love Songs) capturing the drama in warmly lit mediums, and production design by Valerie Abelanski and Luc Compere transforming the aforementioned abode into a bubby's time capsule. Footage of Cebula’s actual parents closes out the movie, revealing Rue Mandar to be a project that's clearly more personal than it is proficient.


Production companies: Manchester Films, Thelma Films, Wild Bunch

Cast: Sandrine Kiberlain, Richard Berry, Emmanuelle Devos, Emmanuelle Bercot

Director: Idit Cebula

Screenwriters: Idit Cebula, Emmanuelle Michelet

Producers: Christine Gozlan, Catherine Bozorgan

Director of photography: Remy Chevrin

Production designers: Valerie Abelanski, Luc Compere

Music: Raphael Elig

Costume designer: Jurgen Doering

Editor: Celia Lafitedupont

Sales Agent: Other Angle Pictures

No rating, 95 minutes