Film-Forward Review: THE GROCER’S SON

Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Claire (Clotilde Hesme) & Antoine (Nicolas Cazalé) 
Photo: Film Movement

Rotten Tomatoes
Showtimes & Tickets
Enter Zip Code:

Directed by Eric Guirado
Written by Guirado & Florence Vignon, based on a story by Guirado
Produced by Miléna Poylo & Gilles Sacuto
Director of Photography Laurent Brunet
Edited by Pierre Haberer
Released by Film Movement
French with English subtitles
France. 96 minutes. Not Rated
With: Nicolas Cazalé, Clotilde Hesme, Daniel Duval, Jeanne Goupil, Liliane Rovère, Paul Crauchet, Stéphan Guérin Tillié & Chad Chenouga

Just in time for summer, The Grocer’s Son offers moviegoers a delightful vacation in Provençe.

Antoine certainly doesn’t see it that way, at first. Played by gorgeous hunk Nicolas Cazalé, he is the petulant prodigal son, struggling in Paris as a waiter and behind in his rent for a lousy apartment. He’s even kept at arm’s length by his pretty neighbor, Claire (Clotilde Hesme). Fired and evicted, he takes over the family grocery back home in the boondocks while his distant father recuperates from a heart attack.

The family business is not just a small store. Dad (Daniel Duval) is one of the last of the traveling grocers, bringing fresh supplies along back roads to isolated farms and hamlets populated by elderly holdouts left behind when the younger generation, like Antoine, fled to the cities, let alone to supermarkets. The long and circuitous rounds his white van makes are the lifeline both for food and companionship, which enables these stubborn seniors to still live independently out on their own.

In the manner of all those charming Irish small-town comedies, like Waking Ned Devine, the beautiful hills are alive with all manner of irascible old folks – hobbling, deaf, and cheap – who teach the angry young man a thing or two about retailing and responsibility as they clash over payment, bartering, and his manners. In particular, crabby and demanding shopper Lucienne (the hilarious Liliane Rovère) challenges his indifference as she remembers him as a boy before he was “a city slicker,” while lonely old man Clèment (Paul Crauchet) exasperates him with his constant requests for assistance.

The feisty and independent Claire accompanies Antoine to the country for a quiet place to study for her important exams. (Quel surprise for his pleased mom – they’re not sleeping together…yet.) Propelled by two young stars with terrific appeal and crackling attraction, writer/director Eric Guirado sweetly ferments a sparkling romance in Provençe where Ridley Scott with Russell Crowe failed in A Good Year. (Until this film, Cazalé was more a television star in France. His earlier features have barely been seen in the U.S.)

Guirado counters urbanite condescension towards the quaint bumpkins as the countryside colorfully works its magic on the wayward son, who finally reveals a light-up-your-life smile. Guirado has done a series of documentary portraits about distinctive lifestyles in rural France, such as of an old shepherd in the Jura Mountains, and he based this story on the traveling grocers of Corsica, the Pyrenees, and the Alps who he followed for over a year.

His story is doubtlessly ripe for a more tidied-up American knock-off – embittered war veteran Cajun returns to fish the bayous or country American Idol-loser lands back in the Ozarks – but it won’t have the lovely scenery of Cazalé or France. Nora Lee Mandel
June 6, 2008



Archive of Previous Reviews

Contact us