WELL DIGGER'S DAUGHTER, THE
On the eve of the Second World War in France, 18-year-old Patricia (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) cuts across the fields to take her well-digger father Pascal Amoretti (Daniel Auteuil) his lunch. On the way, she meets a handsome young man, Jacques Mazel (Nicolas Duvauchelle), a fighter pilot about to be called to the front. They meet only twice but fall madly in love. Still pining over her missing love, she finds herself pregnant, and in the middle of a rift between her father and Jacques' well-to-do, class conscious parents (Jean-Pierre Darroussin and Sabine Azéma). The Mazels refuse to acknowledge their grandchild, accusing Patricia of blackmail. But when Jacques is reported missing in action, the dynamics change.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's old fashioned in the sense that the film's drama derives from 'old fashioned' standards of society in an era when a single girl getting pregnant was a serious, life changing event. But this isn't entirely about that; the screenplay explores the effect the pregnancy has on the 18 year old girl's widowed working class father and the young man's middle class parents.
It touches on the class divide, on genuine morality and decency, on friendship, loneliness and duty.
As the director, Daniel Auteuil takes a fairly romantic approach, giving us lovely French countryside and orchestral music (including excerpts from opera), using nostalgia to revel in the period - albeit the beginning of war is hardly romantic. He subdues the emotions, especially of the young man, Jacques Mazel (Nicolas Duvauchelle), possibly too much, flattening the emotional payoff.
As Pascal, the struggling working father, Auteuil is forceful and effective as he constructs a complete and complex figure whose pride and decency balance each other, and whose moral outrage is balanced by his genuine love for his children, including the wayward and pretty Patricia (Astrid Berges-Frisbey - sweet and effective).
Kad Merad is wonderful as Pascal's co-worker, who is anxious to lose his status as a bachelor, while Jean-Pierre Darroussin is his usual excellent self as the storekeeper whose son has caused all this trouble, before going off to the war.
A bucolic provincial romance, you could call it, and gently, sensitively done, with no heavily dramatic scenes - no love making, no war footage, no birthing - but a sense of tension that keeps the film engaging. It's a film to enjoy away from the noise and chaos of most movies on offer, and while not relevant in some ways, certainly relevant as a note about the strengths and weaknesses of human nature.
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WELL DIGGER'S DAUGHTER, THE (PG)
La fille du puisatier
CAST: Daniel Auteuil, Kad Merad, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Sabine Azéma, Astrid Berges-Frisbey
PRODUCER: Alain Sarde, Jerome Seydoux
DIRECTOR: Daniel Auteuil,
SCRIPT: Daniel Auteuil (novel by Marcel Pagnol)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jean-Francois Robin
EDITOR: Joelle Hache
MUSIC: Alexandre Desplat
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bernard Vezat
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 5, 2012