It turns out Americans and British aren’t the only ones who fantasize about moving to the south of France. The French do it too.
“The Grocer’s Son” is a pretty little movie about a disagreeable young guy, Antoine (Nicolas Cazale), who left his stifling life in Provence 10 years earlier. He doesn’t seem very happy living in the city, but at least he’s not around his family.
That changes when his spiteful father has a heart attack. Antoine is needed at the family grocery store in rural Provence, so he returns to the place he hates.
This sentiment will be shared by absolutely no one watching the film. Provence is filmed as a place of warm fields and green hills; even the cranky people Antoine must deal with are ultimately lovable in their own way.
Antoine is forced to drive a van around the countryside, making deliveries to mostly elderly folks on farms. His blunt manner and peevish attitude make him the least qualified person for “community outreach,” but the most enjoyable part of the movie is watching him grow into this part of the job.
There’s romance, of course, in the form of a city friend, Claire (Clotilde Hesme, from “Love Songs”), who comes to visit. She and Antoine are just friends, actually, but you can assume that might change in the sultry air of Provence.
Director Eric Guirado spent time interviewing rural grocers, to get the details right. And the movie does have a nice sense of place, even if the people in this place come across more as sitcom characters than real people.
Leading man Cazale provides a bit of ballast; he maintains his grumpy demeanor even when the material turns sweet as Provence honey. And at least the movie feels more accurate and less cutesy than “A Good Year,” which had Russell Crowe surrendering to the pleasures of the French countryside.
The film was a big hit in France. No real mystery there, and no reason it shouldn’t repeat its success here. “The Grocer’s Son” is an escapist fantasy about turning life around, and it just happens to be set in Provence. Set the story in the Arctic, and you have a whole different deal.
“The Grocer’s Son”
Cute: A pretty little escapist fantasy about a city guy (Nicolas Cazale) who must return home to rural Provence to run the family grocery store. A little too cutesy, but it’s hard to resist the lure of the place. (In French, with English subtitles.)
Rated: not rated; probably PG-13 for nudity, subject matter
Now showing: Harvard Exit