Headwinds is crafted with genuine feeling
Starring Benoît Magimel and Audrey Tautou. In French with English subtitles. Rating unavailable. Opens Friday, May 4, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
Merde happens. That, essentially, is what Headwinds is all about. Based on a prize-winning novel by Olivier Adam, Des vents contraires, the film shows us what transpires when the doctor wife (Audrey Tautou) of a not particularly successful writer (Benoît Magimel) inexplicably disappears.
Although no longer suspected of murder by the police, Paul Anderen—now the bankrupt single father of two young children—stands in desperate need of closure. Thus, when his older brother Alex (Antoine Duléry) suggests that Paul return to his childhood town, move into their late father’s house, and join the family driving-school business, this de facto widower reluctantly agrees.
What makes Jalil Lespert’s debut feature so interesting is the sly way in which it drops contradictory hints as to what fate really had in store for Dr. Sarah Anderen. At one point, we are briefly led to suspect that we might be watching a Gallic remake of We Need to Talk About Kevin. Far more often, however, we are left to wonder about Alex’s actions and motivations, especially after he tries to help an ex-convict (Ramzy Bedia) who contravenes the law in order to see his son. Along the way, a local police detective (Isabelle Carré) serves as a sort of messenger from the gods, a sympathetic authority figure who tries to make sense out of what might ultimately be senseless.
Emotionally speaking, most of this movie occurs on the fault line that separates guilt from grief. A former actor himself, Lespert manages to coax fine, nuanced performances out of everyone. And even if there isn’t as much Tautou in this movie as worshippers might wish, the final denouement exudes enough genuine feeling to mollify even the most disappointed fan.
Watch the trailer for Headwinds.