The Grocer's Son

Starring Nicolas Cazalé and Clotilde Hesme. In French with English subtitles. Unrated. Plays Saturday to Thursday, January 10 to 15, at the Vancity Theatre

A sweetly pastoral respite from the larger conflicts of the world, The Grocer’s Son stars handsome Nicolas Cazalé as a Parisian layabout named Antoine—a fellow too young to have found his true calling and, at 30, too old to be the shiftless mooch he is all too comfortably becoming.

Watch the movie trailer for The Grocer's Son.

When his dad has a heart attack in the hilly Rhí´ne region of Provence, the immature fellow is forced to take over a shop that caters to elderly residents who speak a dialect outsiders can barely understand. The gig is a major stretch, even with the lucky assistance of his savvy, might-be girlfriend, a grad student and Parisian neighbour called Claire (Clotilde Hesme, the funky, dark-haired beauty from Love Songs).

Driving the family’s rickety fruit wagon on narrow paths between old stone farmhouses, our stubbly antihero has little patience for doddering old-timers used to arguing aubergine prices. And he’s not much kinder to Claire. Furthermore, one local grouch (Liliane Roví¨re) seems to have a bad history with both Antoine and his dad (French veteran Daniel Duval)—an unforgiving hard-ass who hasn’t exactly been mellowed by his medical condition.

Jeanne Goupil excels as the country mama who refuses to think badly of her lazy son, and Stéphan Guérin-Tillié is Antoine’s brother, cracking under the strain of trying to be the good son. The real stars of the movie, though, are the crusty rustics in the background. Writer-director Eric Guirado reportedly spent months observing a passing way of life in this region before turning the locals into actors, and the effect is less predictable than is the central story. Antoine’s gradual awakening is, of course, the point here, but The Grocer’s Son is pleasurably relaxed about getting there.