There are many places that you can get an idea of what this film is about – a film that I watched probably only because it was in my ‘stream’ queue. In other words, it was “free” to watch it via streaming on line. There’s this review by Walter Chaw. Or this one by Anton Bitel. Or this Washington Post review. All give props to the film in their own way.
Directed by Arnaud Desplechin, he’s put together a fine cast from Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Devos down to Magali Woch and a typically wonderful little appearance by Catherine Deneuve. But here’s the one thing I wanted to direct my attention to: the wonderfully brilliant goodbye scene between Amalric’s Ismael and Elias. Elias (Valentin Lelong) is the son of Devos’ Nora. Nora had a relationship with Ismael after her husband committed suicide while Nora was pregnant. Ismael essentially raised Elias, along with Nora, for the first several years of his life and developed a close relationship. Unfortunately Ismael, a brilliant musician, is bipolar and has to be hospitalized periodically. Nora and Ismael have long since split up, but when her father dies, a man who also had a close relationship with Elias, Nora asks Ismael to adopt Elias in case something happens to her.
Ismael is tempted but, during one of his periods of lucidity, he realizes it would e a bad idea. All this is a set-up to the scene where Ismael explains himself to Elias near the end of the film. It was for me an astounding scene, a scene where a man explains and gives advice to a child as to how to live his life. It was so well written and so well done, that I just can’t get it out of my mind. Ismael strikes just the right note of honest man-to-child discussion. He gives heart-felt advice in a completely non-condescending manner. Rarely have I seen such a real, such an honest scene. A scene that was written with integrity, style and passion. Certainly it was delivered that way by Amalric
I loved the film, and if spotty in a few places, this scene made it for me a very memorable experience. I won’t soon forget it.