It wouldn’t be the holiday season without a French romcom hitting Oz cinemas, and this year’s release is Just To Be Sure, but don’t expect your garden variety French romom (that’s not to denigrate the merits of the sub genre). This is something quite different.
Ostensibly, this is the story of a 45-year old man, Erwan (Françoise Damiens) who has just learnt that the man he thought was his father really isn’t.
While he goes in search of his real father, he’s also trying to persuade his pregnant daughter Juliette (Alice de Lencquesaing) to find out who the father of her unborn child is.
Erwan employs a private detective, Cécile (Brigitte Roüan), who is so disarmingly warm it’s a shame she doesn’t have a larger part to play.
At the time that Erwan meets his biological father Joseph (André Wilms) he also makes a potentially romantic connection with Anna (Cecile de France). He doesn’t know Anna is Joseph’s daughter, and in fact Joseph doesn’t know Erwan is his son, so we the audience can see the danger ahead before the characters do.
While there is much comedic and dramatic gold mined from the character dynamics of every relationship in the film, the best scenes involve Ewarn with, respectively, his newfound father, and with his first father Bastien (Guy Marchand).
The story does rely heavily on coincidence, but it doesn’t feel forced or desperate. Much of the enjoyment can be put down to how generous writer/director Carine Tardieu is towards her characters.
Joseph is a particular delight, with his dry sense of humour. He has a dog called Pinochet, because he says it feels good to boss around someone called Pinochet. And who doesn’t love a film with seahorses in it? That beautiful symbol of love that lasts a lifetime. Seahorses are also unusual in that the male incubates the eggs and gives birth to their young. It’s an appropriate symbol given the multiple depictions of fatherhood in the film. Erwan is trying to be a supportive father to Juliette while discovering his new Dad and holding on to the love of the man who raised him.
Damiens would be familiar to many from his role as another father in The Belier Family. He and De France are both very appealing as the leads, giving very natural performances. Only the character of Didier comes across as a bit too broad, but even he has his amusing moments.
Don’t be fooled by the marketing. Just to Be Sure may have romantic elements, but there is much more to this. One of the season’s most delightful surprises.
Just to Be Sure is in national release from Boxing Day
Richard Leathem @dickiegee