|The Well Digger’s Daughter (DVD Review)
review by: Domenic Donatantonio
Ah mes amis, a romance in a seemingly endless Provence summer, the warm glow of longing buffeted by the harsh winds of war and the consequences of when l’amour gets serious.
French actor Daniel Auteuil, a star of Jean de Florette, Un Coeur En Hiver and more recently Hidden, sticks to what he knows best for his competent directing debut with this handsome, old-fashioned film, adapted from the novel by Marcel Pagnol.
Set before the Second World War, Auteuil, one of the best French actors of his generation plays Pascal, a digger and cleaner of wells. He is a greying widower and the father of a number of daughters.
His daughter 18-year-old Patricia (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) is saintly, but you know that trouble is behind that Audrey Tautou-esque pout. And so it is, when she meets handsome, rich but charmless Jacques (Nicolas Duvauchelle).
Leading the cast, Auteuil seasons the film’s sentiment with truthful humour, trading wise old quips with colleague and friend Felipe (the touching Kad Merad).
It’s not a complex performance, but set against the tentative sweetness of Bergès-Frisbey it slips down nicely enough, like a bottle of Chardonnay on a summer’s day.
Only Duvauchelle struggles, weighed down by a rather unconvincing moral transformation. Whether he’s acting on autopilot, it’s hard to say, but there’s little to like in his strong silences and lusty pawings to redeem him, and you just know that he’ll be winking at the next mademoiselle that gives him the eye.
But how many of us wouldn’t trade a grey winter’s day for a journey into Pagnol’s world? Here we get the chance to revisit it – a little sweeter, a little more cloying than we might remember, but a pleasure nonetheless from this first directorial effort.