"A Slice of French Life"
(Ro, B, LL, SS, NN, S) Romantic worldview with moral elements of caring for neighbors; 24 obscenities; no violence; several scenes of implied sex; brief image of male nudity; alcohol use & abuse; and, smoking.
A French film with English subtitles, MARIUS AND JEANNETTE depicts mature romance among the working class in Marseilles, France. Warm-hearted, humorous and touching, this film deals with issues of loneliness, vulnerability, trust, and fears that accompany relationship development marred by some obscenities and sexual situations.
Dedicated to all the unknown working class people, Robert Guediguian’s MARIUS AND JEANNETTE explores mature romantic relationships among the working class in Marseilles, France. Marius (Gerard Meylan), a middle-aged guard for the cement works, meets Jeannette (Ariane Ascaride), a supermarket check-out clerk, when she is looking for some paint for her house. Attracted to this feisty brunette, Marius ends up volunteering to help her paint. Jeannette lives with her teen-age daughter, Magali, and her school-age son, Malek, in a small apartment. She explains to Marius that her daughter’s father left one day and never returned and her son’s father died in a work accident.
Guarded and cautious, the couple takes their time in developing a relationship. Jeannette’s colorful neighbors in her close-knit complex add much to the warm-heartedness of the story. Caroline, an outspoken woman who has had a difficult life, part of it spent in a concentration camp, flirts with Justin, a lonely man who hints at wanting to be invited for dinner. Monique and Dede, a middle-aged couple, are constantly bickering and are now facing the conflict of Dede’s company going on strike. It becomes obvious that Jeannette and her neighbors have all grown to care about each other. Frustrated with the condition of their lives, they still find ways to take pleasure in the simple joys of life.
As Marius becomes more attached to Jeannette and her children, he becomes frightened and one day does not return. Jeannette is devastated so Dede and Justin decide to look for Marius to find out why he left. Finding him in a drunken stupor, they all proceed to a bar where Marius, drunk and vulnerable, shares with them the tragedy that occurred to him years ago. After celebrating his wife’s birthday, his family was involved in a car accident, killing his wife and two children. Dede, in a great statement, sums up what has happened to Marius when she says, “There isn’t enough music in his heart to make life dance.” Dede and Justin then proceed to help with the situation.
Warm-hearted, funny and touching, MARIUS AND JEANNETTE captures the genuineness of French working class life that can be universally understood. Choosing actors that are non-glamorous, director Robert Guediguian allows the audience to emotionally connect with them as real people instead of watching beautiful actors portraying these characters. The acting is superb, enhancing viewers’ identification with the characters.
Regrettably, not many people will hear of, let alone see, this film. Geared toward mature audiences, MARIUS AND JEANNETTE deals with issues of loneliness, vulnerability, trust, and the fears that accompany middle-aged people who are looking for a partner with whom to share their lives. Marred by some obscenities and sexual situations, its overall mood is uplifting as the characters overcome their past tragedies and trials to find happiness and contentment, yet without divine guidance.