By Philip Benton @paolobento
My experience of watching foreign language films is limited to the German thriller ‘The Lives of Others’ and the Italian gangster movie ‘Gomorrah’, so when I had the opportunity to see and review a quirky French comedy about a boy growing up thinking he was a girl, I was intrigued to say the least.
‘Les garçons et Guillaume, à table!’, as it was known upon release in France in 2013 (I think the English title is slightly more catchy), stars and is directed by comedian Guillaume Gallienne. The film begins with one of many scenes of Guillaume speaking with his overbearing mother, confusingly also played by Guillaume – I only realised this after 15 minutes of watching which either shows the quality and versatility of his acting or my blissful ignorance.
We follow Guillaume’s journey from childhood as he debates his true gender whilst at many a different boarding school, to an eventual experimentation with his sexual feelings and for which reaches an unexpected conclusion. The film is told in an unfamiliar way with Guillaume recounting his experiences on-stage though a one-man play and continuous flashbacks providing the backdrop to the story.
“Dinner is on the table, boys and Guillaume” is one of the opening lines which illustrates his mother’s attitude to Guillaume and her reluctance to acknowledge him as her third son. Whilst his brothers go off on rugby weekends, Guillaume enjoys more gentle pastimes such as playing the piano, much to his father’s (André Marcon) annoyance.
The early part of the film provides many examples of the awkwardness and the difficulties Guillaume faces growing up. A young Guillaume goes to Spain one summer to improve his Spanish and learns to dance but embarrassingly picks up all of the female moves, much to the hilarity of his dancing companions.
Guillaume’s complicated relationship with his mother is a focal part of the film with a desperate need for her approval apparent throughout as she pops up as a ‘hologram’ in complicated situations, whether that be him in therapy or a first trip to a gay club. Guillaume mirrors his mother in many ways and has an unusual skill of being able to mimic her voice which confuses many a family member (perhaps not that difficult considering Gallienne’s double acting role).
One of the more memorable scenes involves Guilluame on a visit to an Austrian health spa club and is subject to a punishing sports massage and then an altogether odder episode involving Diane Kruger and a hose (I’ll let you fill in the gory details for yourself). Something that you’ll be sure to chortle at if you have a sense of ‘schadenfreude’ like myself.
The film is a bit of a slow-burner (despite a runtime of just 85 minutes) and certainly has a ‘unique’ feel to it but the conclusion provides a rewarding and an unexpected pleasure. It’s a story which certainly won’t be to everybody’s tastes but will definitely appeal to the cinema-goer looking for an alternative to the regular mainstream Hollywood flick.
Me, Myself and Mum is showing in UK cinemas from Friday December 5th