Never have I felt such thrill for a movie since I watched Leon the Professional years ago. While watching, I couldn’t help but wish that the movies that tackled similar topics could be as well done as this. Because although this film is about a double taboo relationship, it wasn’t sleazy or rushed for it be exciting. At the beginning of the film, we immediately got to know one of the main characters as if we had been already watching him for a long time, and as the story progressed, it felt the same with the others. It’s as if the story isn’t unfolding from a screen, because you feel more like a fly on the wall, being given a private show. Not only is the story to my liking, but the leading actress as well. Even though she was just 15 when it was filmed, Ariel Besse, was able to act well and was the perfect choice for her character. This has absolutely become one of my favorites.
The title is pretty much a give-away of what this French film is about. Beau-Pere is a French word for Step-Father, which is what the male lead, Remy, is to the female lead, Marion. For the first 5 minutes of the movie, we are introduced to a male pianist playing in a restaurant, Remy, who breaks the fourth wall by talking to the audience casually, as if to a friend, which for me instantly captivated my attention because I felt that I was in the room with him, hearing him voice out his dissatisfaction and sadness with his life. Afterwards, we see him talk to his wife, Martine, who no longer shows any interest in him, which is caused by their financial instability as she points out to him before she leaves. Their less than satisfactory marriage is ended when Martine is killed in a car accident. Remy is grief stricken, and is unable to tell Marion, Martine’s Daughter with her Ex-Husband, and his step-daughter, about her mother’s untimely demise so he writes it to her instead. He goes out to buy food even though he doesn’t have money after telling Marion that there is a letter for her on the table. He returns with his basket filled, and Marion finished with reading the letter. He finally talks to her about her mother’s death, and they both express their sorrow by crying in each other’s arms. We first see the sparks of this movie during this moment, when Marion tells Remy that she wants to stay with him. Because from this point, it is clear that Remy loses his authenticity as Marion’s parent, even though he has raised her for the past 8 years, because she is not his biological daughter, and that she should now live with her father. Remy assures Marion that she can stay with him and that he is there for her. He now goes to a club that belongs to Charlie, Marion’s father, and delivers the news of Martine’s death to him. They mainly talk about Marion, and Remy expresses his desire to continue raising her, but Charlie disagrees and decides to take his daughter in the morning. Remy, being evidently soft and insecure, meekly nods. This is unsavory news for Marion who only discovers her new living arrangement when she comes home from school that morning. Displeased and feeling betrayed, she grumpily gathers her belongings and goes with her father. Two weeks have passed since then, and Remy is doing miserably, and is in a worst condition than before. Refusing to play because he is sad, he loses his job, and has become a constant burden on his friend, Nicolas, and his family. It appears that the main source of his current state is Marion. Nicolas explains to him that the reason why Marion hasn’t contacted him is because she felt abandoned by him because he let her go. After hearing this, Remy musters up the courage and calls her from a payphone. It is Marion who answers and he quickly apologizes to her, and asks how she is doing, but she never speaks again during Remy’s call, even though he said he misses her. That night, while listening to music, he is surprised when the girl arrives with two suitcases. She has decided to move back in with him, without her father’s approval, which worries Remy. Marion on the other hand is cool and confident, simply explaining that she left a note for her father, and that if it bugs Remy, she can easily go back and tear the note, and forget about it. He protests, and they embrace, finally on good terms again. But Remy is still worried about Charlie, and it is Marion who tells him to be firm, and prepare to fight for her. From here on, the role of adult and child is reversed; Marion is mature, and decisive, while Remy is unsure and almost child-like. After exchanging blows with Charlie, he finally relents and permits Marion to live with Remy. Despite gaining back Marion, Remy is still troubled. He tells her that he has lost his job, and is without hope of finding one, but as what has become the usual, Marion takes charge and comes up with the solution: She will baby-sit after school and Remy will give piano lessons. For a while, they are happy, and livelily play the piano together, while they sing out loud. This is a momentous scene, for it is their last father-daughter interaction throughout the movie.
Things begin to change when Marion expresses her troubled feelings to Remy, who strongly rejects her at first, but as she pursues him repeatedly he finally gives in. Having eaten the forbidden fruit, what happens to them? To know the answer, I greatly suggest that people should watch this film.
I found it wonderful how Bertran Blier showed the gradual change in the characters, and how the lines were delivered. Ariel Besse, as Marion, was the epitome of a young girl’s passionate and determined love that although is true, is also dangerous and careless. Well, since she was actually 15, Ariel acted the way a 14 year old girl in love would, headfirst and eager, in spite of her inexperience. Having been that age years ago, I could not help but squirm while I watched because it was too uncomfortably real, and reminded me of my inexperience at that time. Patrick Dewaere, as the down on his luck stepfather, Remy, was brilliant in portraying a confused, torn man whom you could not hate. He was easily relatable because he faced a situation that all of us faced at one point or another, to be in an alluring and sweet but dangerous comfort or be honorably alone with nothing but nightmares to dull the pain. In a way, they both were innocent, which was what ultimately led to their complicated situation. Their awkwardness and visible difficulty made their characters genuine. Which brings a question to mind: is what a hero lacks, what makes a villain?
The only thing that bothered me was the ending because it was open-ended, but showed two possible paths for the characters. Which one was the last minute of the film really pointing to? (If you don’t want to be spoiled don’t read beyond this point) Continuation with Marion, or with Nathalie?