AFFFF Review: A Kid

 

There’s plenty to like in this year’s Alliance Francaise French Film Festival, and one of the best is A Kid. This drama about a 33-year old Parisian who travels to Canada for the funeral of the father he never met, is a minefield of emotional moments, rendered all the more powerful by the restraint with which they are delivered.

At film’s beginning Matthieu (Pierre Deladonchamps) receives a call that his father has passed away in Canada. He has hitherto known nothing about the man, which is just the way his now deceased mother wanted it. She steadfastly refused to talk about him, and for years said she didn’t even know who he was.

Now Matthieu has the chance to find out, and he’s particularly keen to meet the two half brothers he didn’t know he had.

He’s in for a rude shock though when he arrives in Canada. His father’s best friend Pierre (Gabriel Arcand) is a gruff man who sternly tells Matthieu it’s better he doesn’t stir up trouble by meeting his half brothers, who don’t even know he exists. So what he thought would be a weekend of getting to know his new family looks to be a solitary exercise involving a funeral where he can’t even identify himself.   

As luck would have it, he gets to meet his two half brothers Ben and Sam (Pierre-Yves Cardinal and Patrick Hivon respectively) who are returning to the lake to try and find their father’s body. For it transpires that although Matthieu’s father is presumed dead, there’s no hard evidence. Ben in particular is hell bent on finding the body, otherwise by Canadian law, he has to wait seven years to get any of the inheritance.

The more time Matthieu spends with the brothers, the less keen he is to reveal his true identity.

Matthieu is actually a budding crime writer, and there’s the bones of a good crime thriller in the situation he finds himself in. Director Philippe Lioret, however, is more interested in the psychology of his characters. Much of the film is about Matthieu discovering more about his family history and how all the family members fit into the puzzle, and naturally the reasons why his father abandoned him and why he never made contact.

Lioret’s most famous film is Welcome, about an Iraqi boy trying to get to England, who finds himself stranded in Calais. A swimming coach played by Vincent Lindon becomes a kind of surrogate father figure to him.

The main character in A Kid may not be as young as the title suggests, but in many ways this is a story about his childhood and his yearning to understand the absence of a father in his life.

Deladonchamps , who won a Cesar for most promising actor for Stranger by the Lake a few years ago, conveys so much with his sad, blue eyes. The film very much rests on his shoulders and he’s a very amiable presence, exuding just the right balance of vulnerability and frustration.

Arcand, brother of celebrated director Denys Arcand, is also very good in a very layered, complex performance. And anyone who’s seen Tom at the Farm will well remember Cardinal, who plays a variation on the neanderthal bully he played in that film.

A Kid, the French title Le Fils de Jean is a little more descriptive, is an absorbing and ultimately very rewarding experience.

✭✭✭✭

A Kid is currently screening at the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival

Richard Leathem @dickiegee