BELIER FAMILY, THE
In the Belier family everyone is deaf except dutiful 16 year old Paula (Louane Emera) who acts as the indispensable translator for her parents and younger brother Quentin (Luca Gelberg). But her close bond to her family is challenged with the discovery of an extraordinary talent for music.
Review by Louise Keller:
Original and in perfect pitch with its audience, The Belier Family is a charmer. What is wonderful about the film is that we immediately engage with the characters, laughing WITH rather than AT them, despite the fact that everyone is the family is deaf, except for 16 year old Paula (Louane Emera, in a stunning film debut). Promoted as France's Number 1 film of the year, the film soars by grace of its wonderful screenplay, grounded firmly in everyday reality, dealing with issues large and small. The starting point for the humour smorgasbord is the situation comedy that is central to the narrative. This is compounded by the clever use of slapstick that evolves naturally through the circumstances. The icing on the cake is the rich poignancy that acts as a counterpoint, turning our laughter into tears. It's a real crowd pleaser; a film you will not forget.
When the film begins, we quickly understand how much the whole family relies on Paula - to translate between their silent worlds and that of everyone else. Life is chaotic in the farm house where the family lives, with communications a mix of animated sign language and Paula's verbalisations. The scene at the markets, where the family sells their cheeses is very funny, in that it is an example of efficient teamwork: Paula's mother Gigi (Karin Viard, hilarious) smiles at customers, her brother Quentin (Luca Gelberg) takes the cash while Paula communicates. Rodolphe's (Francois Damiens) decision to run for Mayor (triggered by the insufferable, patronizing mayor seeking re-election - played by Stˇphan Wojtowicz) is one that does not surprise the rest of his family, never imagining that the fact he is deaf might be a disadvantage. I chuckled at the irony of the slogan printed on his election poster: 'I am listening.'
Paula's selection into the school choir is a major plot point and Fabien Thomasson (Eric Elmosnino), the choir master is a hoot. 'Singing is your personal septic system' he tells his students. Watch out for the scene when Gabriel (Ilian Bergala), the Parisien boy on whom Paula has a crush comes to the farm to rehearse their duet, not realizing her family is deaf. There are no shortages of surprises and the film is filled with priceless moments.
The revelations all come together in the final act when Paula spreads her wings and tries her luck singing. To reveal more would spoil the surprises, suffice to say that emotions come to the fore when you least expect it.
This is a gem of a film - don't miss it!
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Good comedy rests on genuine dramatic foundations, a rule this film surely affirms. A family of deaf parents and a deaf son, with a daughter, Paula (Louane Emera) whose hearing is perfect - and who has 'a gold nugget' in her throat as music teacher Fabien Thomasson (Eric Elmosnino, excellent) discovers, when Paula is coerced into auditioning for the school choir. She can sing beautifully. The screenplay has plenty of fun with the elements, not least the fact that not everyone knows that the Bˇlier family is mostly deaf. But they are not disadvantaged: their dairy farm produces cheese, thanks to mum Gigi (Karin Viard), which they sell at the local market, with Paula doing the talking.
There is not a moment of playing for laughs by Thomasson as he guides, cajoles, curses and insults his student, urging them on to better things. Paula's relationship with Thomasson is one of the key strands in the film's emotional harness. Another is Paula's inevitable but stumbling and stuttering romance with Gabriel (Ilian Bergala) with whom Thomasson pairs her for a duet at the end of year school concert.
But of course, the prime relationship is the one tested by Paula's opportunity to audition in a Paris radio station for a prestigious and rare position in the opera chorus. It's her golden chance to leave the restrictions of provincial farming life ... but how can she abandon her family, for whom she is a vital link with the world, as the translator of the spoken word.
What is really loveable about the screenplay (and the direction) is how the parents are presented as vibrant (and sexually playful) characters who never feel sorry for themselves; indeed, they tend to feel sorry for those who can hear all too well.
The pace is great, the warmth of the family abundantly clear - even amidst their internal arguments - and the resolution beautifully realised as an uplifting finale to a film full of acute observations about human nature. And a superb debut by Louane Emera as Paula with the 'gold nugget' in her throat.
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BELIER FAMILY, THE (M)
La famille Bˇlier
CAST: Karin Viard, Francois Damiens, Eric Elmosino, Louane Emera, Roxane Duran, Ilian Bergala, Luca Gelberg, Mar Sodupe, Stˇphan Wojtowicz, Jerome Kircher, Bruno Gomilla
PRODUCER: Stˇphanie Bermann, Eric Jehelmann, Philippe Rousselet
DIRECTOR: Eric Lartigau
SCRIPT: Stanislas Carrˇ de Malberg, Victoria Bedos (adaptation Thomas Bidegain, Eric Lartigau)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Romain Winding
EDITOR: Jennifer Augˇ
MUSIC: Evgueni Galperine, Sacha Galperina
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Olivier Radot
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2015 (advance screenings two weeks prior)