Germain (Gérard Depardieu) has stumbled upon a lovely little old lady in the park, Margueritte (Gisèle Casadesus), who may just be a second chance at the redemption of a terrible childhood, originally ruined by his poor excuse of a mother (Anne Le Guernec). As shown in a number of flashbacks to Germain's childhood, we see how poor parenting and nightmarish school experiences left the child bereft of confidence, inspiration or even hope. As Germaine reflects, 'Even if I went around the world, the distance between my mother and me is in our heads.' A profound remark from someone considered oafish and illiterate. His exposure to a compassionate, genteel lady influences the middle aged Germain in many unexpected and fascinating ways.
Depardieu's subtle changes throughout Germain's continued exposure to Margueritte bring veracity to the character. It's a tribute to Germain that he didn't become a sociopath based on his emotional deprivation, as another combination of genes might have produced. Germain is gentle, humble, patient and even loving before the influence of Marguerite who entices him with literature, something he always believed was beyond him. It is amusing and at the same time wondrous to see an enhanced Germain develops - as we find, not so much based on how many books he reads, but how he views himself..
'My Afternoons with Margueritte' is a quiet pleasure, an uplifting story of how it's never to late to learn, love, and grow. Superficially, it's a story about how books enhance one's life, which is undeniably true. But it's also an understated reflection of how a person can flourish starting at any age given the right encouragement.
My Afternoons with Margueritte
Director: Jean Becker
Writer: Jean-Loup Dabadie, Jean Becker, adapted from Marie-Sabine Roger's novel La tête en friche
Cast: Gérard Depardieu, Gisèle Casadesus, Anne Le Guernec, Claire Maurier
Time: 82 min
Opening September 23 at a Landmark Theatre in San Francisco