“Antoinette in the Cévennes” (M) ***
THE inspiration for this French comedy is “Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes” that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote in 1878 describing his long walk leading a donkey (its name was Modestine) through the rugged Cévennes region of southern France.
In her second feature (after a career in TV drama) writer/director Caroline Vignal introduces teacher Antoinette (Laure Calamy) eagerly anticipating spending part of her summer vacation enjoying sensual hi-jinks with Vladimir (Benjamin Lavernhe).
The film finds its dramatic energy from two conflicts. Number one. Vladimir: “Sorry, Antoinette, my wife Eleonore [Olivia Côte] and our daughter want me to replicate Stevenson’s walk.”
In a homage to Stevenson and Modestine, Antoinette hires a donkey. Conflict number two. Its name is Patrick. And it’s quite an actor, stealing the film whenever it’s in shot.
The film looks beautiful. Vignal gives a short lesson in the history and geography of the Cévennes to tell us where we are. Then she turns up the narrative. Antoinette is not a woman to be in charge of an animal, especially one as cunning as Patrick.
It’s a warmly charming film, an agreeable escape occasionally testing our credulity without abusing it and ending on an optimistic note suggesting that, whether or not she deserves it, Antoinette may find what she’s seeking.
At Palace Electric