The Grocer's Son Review
Filmed in the Lyon and Rhône-Alpes region of the south of France, Éric Guirado’s second feature follows up on the social observations of the region’s problems of his acclaimed and successful debut Quand tu descendras du ciel (2003). Shot on 16mm, The Grocer’s Son (Le fils de l’épicier) even has a documentary-like feel, drawing attention to the lack of public services and amenities faced by the people of the region, many of them old and isolated in remote locations with no support from the younger generation. The narrative of the film is however rather loosely held together with an unexceptional story of family conflict and romance.
When his father in hospital after suffering a stroke, Antoine, who has been struggling to find steady work in the city, is prevailed upon to help out with the family’s grocery business back out in the country. It’s not an easy decision for the young man – his relationship with his father hasn’t been good, and the idea of taking out the old travelling grocery van again to reach customers in outlying areas to pick up a couple of Euros from meagre sales doesn’t appeal to him either, but seeing an opportunity to further his relationship with a neighbour Claire by inviting her out to the peace of the countryside to help her study, Antoine reluctantly goes back to help out.
If the ensuing family issues, romance storyline and life lessons are unremarkable and fairly predictable, the film nonetheless highlights well the predicament faced by the people of the region. It takes Antoine a long time to realise that the travelling grocery van is more than just a business, it’s also a social service, giving the people a reason to get out of their houses and an opportunity to see and speak to others. Guirado – having previously made a series of documentary films for French television on the subject – depicts this well and the film functions best when it takes time to breathe, take in the scenery and the lifestyle of the local inhabitants of the Rhône-Alpes region, setting it to an excellent guitar score by Christophe Boutin.
The Disc: ICA Films’ DVD releases are still somewhat basic, lacking in any extra features whatsoever, but they have improved considerably in the essential aspects of the film presentation, with even animated menus and scene selection now available! The film is presented anamorphically at 1.85:1 and, considering the film was shot it on 16mm, it looks great here. Not ultra-clear and sharp evidently, but fine nonetheless, with reasonable shadow detail, good colours and a stable transfer. The DD 2.0 audio is clear and has a good depth of tone, particularly on the music score. English subtitles are even optional. The disc is encoded for Region 2.