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You see how pretty that image is? This film is FULL of pretty images like this. Dreamy looking fields, a carnival lit up at night, an ant trapped inside a vacuum cleaner, an infant bundled up and lying on the grass — just gorgeous stuff.

The kind of beautiful images that purportedly surround us in everyday life but that we tend to ignore because we are so caught up in the business of life. I guess that’s the central message of the movie and the beauty and freedom represented in these images do a pretty good job of making that point. Unfortunately, the rest of the film was far less convincing for me.

First and foremost, this is a really really conventional story. One that we’ve seen several times before. It’s Rain Man + Forrest Gump + whatever that Jim Carrey / Adam Sandler movie was where he doesn’t have time to attend his kids [insert activity here] because of a meeting at work. Except it’s in French and features two really good actors. But even the superb acting talent couldn’t make the content fresh for me. Side note: I love Daniel Auteuil but I am surprised he won an acting award for this movie. I found him really unconvincing especially in the scenes where he has to burst into laughter or start sobbing uncontrollably. Pascal Duquenne, otoh, was truly wonderful. He’s both intense and spontaneous and is clearly incredibly talented.

Outside of that performance though, the film was just too much of a Hallmark card for me to embrace. Just too by-the-numbers. Right in the opening shot, we hear an alarm clock ringing and Daniel Auteuil’s character is caught in a traffic jam while getting to work. For good measure, he’s a salesman who gives motivational speeches to his trainees. These scenes of ringing alarm clocks and traffic jams are repeated multiple times just in case we didn’t know that was all his life revolved around. He gets delayed at work when he’s supposed to pick his kids up from the train station and as he races against the clock and stalled traffic, the score (more on that later) plays mournful music and we see the kids get into the train and depart as Auteuil watches from the platform.

You can guess the rest, right? Circumstances lead to Auteuil (Harry) getting stuck with the enchanting Georges, a man-child who suffers from Down’s syndrome and leads a far simpler, happier life and has the capacity to fill everyone around him with joy. No points for guessing how all this ends.

I wouldn’t have minded the conventional storyline so much if the treatment was fresh at least. But I just found the filmmaking extremely heavy-handed. Harry’s world (when he is alone) is always shot in these blue / gray tints and in contrast, Georges world is colorful and filled with sunshine and ladybugs. Also, I really think that the movie oversimplifies Georges condition. Thankfully, Duquenne is so good an actor that his performance manages to transcend the poor writing and add depth and genuine pain to Georges.

Secondly, there are all these scenes that in a better film could’ve been magical. Scenes where a character walks on water, where a carnival / amusement park comes to life in the middle of the night and so on. But the film is so predictable and so overly sentimental that I got no joy from these scenes. Same with the ending.

I am so sorry, Emiliana Undecided. I really wanted to like this film and to a large extent, I do think it is my horrible, cynical world view that perhaps keeps me from enjoying a film like this. I know my review is really harsh but I really did enjoy seeing Duquenne on screen. He is so charming and seems to just open up to the camera entirely and that’s always a pleasure to watch.

Grade: C

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