Last week it was Fête du Cinéma for 3 days so me and my family decided to take advantage of the 4€ entrance fee and have a movie night.
If you’ve never heard of this event and live in France then you should bookmark this link for next time as it happens once a year in June and most cinemas offer discounted movie tickets.
We picked one of my favorite French directors, Cédric Klapisch, who released a new movie called Ce qui nous lie. This could be loosely translated to “what binds us together”.
The setting of this movie is the picturesque region of Bourgogne and as the movie starts we dive right into the troubles of a grieving family of 2 brothers and a sister in the wine business.
If you think this sounds like a bit of a cliché of France because of the wine and Bourgogne, then let me reassure you. Klapisch makes his movies for French viewers and has no interest in sketching an inauthentic portrait of French culture, he’d be lynched right away by the French critics.
I like this director because he’s so good at showing us what goes on in the back of the mind of his characters. In Ce qui nous lie he does it in a way that the fertile vineyard mixes with the family’s emotions to finally reveal the fragility of human relationships in how they can build us or break us.
If you like slow-paced movies with a focus on characters instead of a complex plot and enjoy stunning visuals, then you can't miss out on this movie!
PS: I wouldn't watch the full trailer, my sister complained that it reveals too much of the story!
But that’s not why I decided to talk about this movie on Fresh French.
No, it’s because of its core subjects : the matter of family and roots and what to do with them as we grow up to become responsible adults with a family of our own and a career.
There were 3 elements about this movie that my family thought were “typical French” which I’ll share with you as they may be interesting for you to understand if you’re currently dating or married to a French person.
1. Parents tend to favor some of their children
If you watch Ce qui nous lie or about any other French movie featuring family bonds, you'll notice the parents often don't treat their children in the same fair way. It may be related to age, for example the eldest will get punished more often than his younger brothers and sisters, or the youngest one may get special treatment. It could be that each parent has their favorite son or daughter, just like that.
I'm sure this kind of behavior called favoritisme by the French happens all over the world, but what I think is so shameless about France is it's considered normal by adults. If you watch Conte de noël, there's a scene where the mother says she doesn't like one of her sons and she doesn't seem the least bothered by that.
I recently watched another French movie called De plus belle and the mother clearly had some issues with some of her children while she treated her younger son as a prince. This attitude even extends to school and you'll often hear young students talking about the chouchou, a teacher's favorite student.
2. Quarrels can be terrible but don't last long
I come from a family where disagreeing is considered healthy but where we typically walk away or stop discussing if the volume starts to raise between us. I think it's safe to say we hate conflict and we would never go as far as insulting another member of the family just because we're upset.
Well, if you've lived in a French building then you know that this really doesn't apply to your French neighbors. Voices rise, swear words (and sometimes objects) fly, kids may even get slapped on the cheek by their parents in some cases.
But then, 2 hours after their husband or kid walked out of the living room and slammed the door, they'll be back with a smile and a viennoiserie expecting it to be the right time to make peace and put it all behind.
Ok, it may not always be that quick but a small quarrel resolves itself very fast. After all, the French vigorously apply the saying that life is short and will easily go from yelling to laughing with the people they love. Actually, moving to Brazil made me realize it can get much worse so remember that everything is relative for culture.
Just know that exchanging mean comments with each other is something that can happen and that it will all be forgiven and forgotten afterwards. There's a verb for this in French that doesn't seem to have a real translation in English : se réconcilier.
3. Not everything is resolved with communication
Finally, my last point would be that there's a lot of subtleties in French communication. In Ce qui nous lie you'll notice that each brother and sister has their own problems and that most of the time these issues aren't discussed between them.
Instead, they prefer to keep an eye on each other and only interfere indirectly by talking to someone else and asking for help or by making sure they're present for the other person. The younger brother stays the whole night while he was supposed to go home to have dinner with his wife just because he sees that his brother is feeling sad. Another time, the wife will tell her husband what she really wants. Later on, you'll see the husband having a talk with his father-in-law about the same topic.
To resume, French communication is often indirect and can sometimes be replaced by just being there for the other, by noticing when someone's in distress or by gently asking someone else to say the things that matter.
Being tactful and giving space to another to deal with his emotions are two things that I love about the typical French family !
Now that it's all said, I'd like to share with you a list of 7 movies that I recommend watching to understand what goes on in different kinds of families around France. Some stories are light and others are terribly sad but all of them are precious portraits of a French family.
I actually have more French movies on my wishlist that relate to family so if you're interested in the topic, make sure you bookmark this page as I'll be adding more movies to this post later on this summer !
Cigarettes et chocolat chaud (new)
A young family going through grief will do anything to stay together
Year of release : 2016
Mood : quirky, moving
Director : Sophie Reine
Featured actors : None
What makes this movie great : This movie is an absolute pearl thanks to the charm of the 2 young girls and their frantic, loving father. We follow their adventures with delight which happen to have serious consequences on all of their lives...
Link to trailer : www.youtu.be/eG3i-vmZvDc (in French)
A not so usual summer holiday for 2 sisters and their parents
Year of release : 2016
Mood : light, refreshing
Director : Diastème
Featured actors : None
What makes this movie great : As simple as the story seems at first, a lot more goes on behind closed doors and we get to experience the deep relationships that connect each character with the other members of the family. I personally loved the plot and the esthetics, but some of you may find some of their behaviour hard to understand. Welcome to the French world!
Link to trailer : www.youtu.be/1FnfcQ7c4Ec (in French)
Nos plus belles vacances (new)
A group of Parisians goes through "culture shock" in Bretagne
Year of release : 2012
Mood : sweet, funny
Director : Philippe Lellouche
Featured actors : None
What makes this movie great : This movie was not an immediate success when it came out and that's probably because the story isn't so special and neither are the actors. As a foreigner living in France however, this movie can be hilarious and very interesting especially to those who settled down in the North as you'll discover a whole different culture and language.
Link to trailer : www.youtu.be/g6EpUENPtIs (in French)
Un air de famille
Just the usual awkward dinner party...
Year of release : 1996
IMDB Rating : 7.6
Mood : ironic, bittersweet
Director : Cédric Klapisch
Featured actors : Catherine Frot
What makes this movie great : This is an older movie directed by Klapisch, I'd say he used to be slightly darker which may be of your taste. There's no focus on the plot, instead we get to observe everyone closely as if we were part of the family.
Link to trailer : youtu.be/_xXMk0S_O4E (no voices)French trailer without subtitles : youtu.be/zHIQeEz-wEM
How to survive a visit from your in-laws
Year of release : 2009
IMDB Rating : 6.5 (but still a favorite!)
Mood : funny, moving
Director : Eric Toledano
Featured actors : Omar Sy
What makes this movie great : Even though the beginning dinner scene is similar in script to Un air de famille or Qu'est-ce qu'on a fait au bon Dieu?, here the directors choose to highlight the shortcomings of each member of the family in a touching and lightly humoristic way. You may think the plot is slightly insane, but a lot of the details are actually quite realistic in a French family, so beware of judging this movie as not being serious. I personally loved it so much I watched it twice!
Link to trailer : www.youtu.be/jqG-JUTw5OY
Un conte de noël
The weirdest Christmas party you'll ever attend
Year of release : 2008
IMDB Rating : 7.1
Mood : bittersweet, moving
Director : Arnaud Desplechin
Featured actors : Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Devos
What makes this movie great : This movie is not for everyone, it's actually quite depressing in a way so have a look at the trailer before deciding to watch the full movie. It's been recommended and praised by many because of its raw look at how far people can go while calling themselves "family". All in all this movie is a complex analysis of what family can amount to in extreme situations.
Link to trailer : youtu.be/3Cjfr2EBs-8
La famille Bélier
A family you will surely fall in love with
Year of release : 2014
IMDB Rating : 7.4
Mood : coming-of-age, refreshing
Director : Eric Lartigau
Featured actors : Karin Viard
What makes this movie great : I loved this movie because it pictures such a lovable family with many difficulties to overcome without losing its light tone. In a clever way, the situation is inverted as the daughter lives with people that consider her as different as she can hear while they can't. This is a gentle movie that you'll most certainly fall in love with besides understanding some of the issues of living in a small French village when it comes to politics and schooling.
Link to trailer : youtu.be/mzWvI8BkrJo
De l'autre côté du lit
How switching sides meant a lot more than he imagined...
Year of release : 2008
IMDB Rating : 6.5
Mood : funny, light
Director : Pascale Pouzadoux
Featured actors : Danny Boon, Sophie Marceau
What makes this movie great : Be prepared for a real comedy, nothing too serious in the script and full of humor but in the core there's a real image of how gender roles were viewed in France about 10 years ago. Now, things are changing slowly but if you intend to marry a French guy I'd make sure I'm aware of the French perspective on a woman's role in a family.
Link to trailer : youtu.be/ciINQxRbMHE (no subtitles)
La guerre est déclarée
A stunning hymn to grief, confusion and parenthood
Year of release : 2011
IMDB Rating : 7.0
Directors : Valérie Donzelli,
What makes this movie great : What makes this movie even more unique is the fact it was written and played by a couple who went through a similar situation. I wanted to put this movie on my recommendations list because it's the kind of family you'll never forget. Also, the tone of the movie is far from being melodramatic.
Link to trailer : youtu.be/k4wUH4lpedI
Qu'est-ce qu'on a fait au bon Dieu?
How to deal with different cultures when you get married
Year of release : 2014
IMDB Rating : 7.0
Director : Philippe de Chauveron
Featured actors : Christian Clavier
What makes this movie great : The synopsis may look like the start of a bad joke ("an Arab, a Jew and a Chinese get married to French girls...") but it's actually quite an enjoyable movie and IMDB viewers seem to agree. I just wanted to warn you that this movie has almost nothing politically correct about it. No culture is spared and you'll notice everyone in the movie has some kind of prejudice. Even though the ending is not really surprising, you'll get to see a bit of what goes on in the mind of old-fashioned French parents.
Link to trailer : youtu.be/IbyLWzBLLf8
Oh wow, great list of movies, Abigail! I really want to see Tellement Proches — big Omar Sy fan!
I personally find indirect communication quite frustrating. I don’t know a ton of French people well, so any big issues have usually been with my in-laws. I’m the type to confront something head on, in the moment or right after, because not resolving something just weighs on me if I have to mentally carry it around. My in-laws tend to sweep things under the rug never to be heard of again and that’s not my style at all. Not sure if it’s a French trait or a people thing (maybe both), but just something I’ve noticed. Enjoyed your post and looking forward to watching the movies! #allaboutfrance
Yes, Tellement Proches is one of my favorite French comedies, you’ll love Omar Sy’s character! I’m sure you’ll see a lot in those movies that you’ll relate to as indeed French people tend to explode without having said what really bothers them… But if this makes you feel a tiny bit better, moving to Brazil and dealing with my Brazilian in-laws (they’re lovely people!) made me realize indirect communication can be much worse than what I encountered in France. Maybe you’d like Holland, people over there can be extremely direct 😛
I noticed this way of keeping certain things silent and dealing with them through action or by getting someone else involved is quite common in the Southern European countries (Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal and France). I did hear from a French friend of mine who moved to the States that there’s a lot of passive-agressive behavior over there and I think that would make me feel even more frustrated.
Thank you for all the movie recommendations! My in-laws have exclusively foreign daughters-in-law and they compared their family to Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au bon Dieu? when the movie came out. I didn’t know quite how to take that! #AllAboutFrance
Haha, that’s a good one! I think a lot of French parents must feel blessed by their international daughters-in-law, but they may not express it in an obvious way if you think of their tendency to express themselves through indirect communication. I just hope you’re not “throwing the sponge” as the French say 😉
I love French films so thanks so much for these recommendations. The only one I’ve seen is ‘La famille Bélier ‘ which I really enjoyed. I think I’ll also watch ‘Tellement Proches’ next, as I’m also a fan of Omar Sy. My eldest son has a Brazilian girlfriend and she is delightful!
La famille Bélier really surprised me, it was such a sweet story with no clichés about disabilities and I’m happy to hear this list has some movies you haven’t watched yet. Living far away from France for a few years made me enjoy French movies even more actually!
Thanks for sharing this great list of movies. I don’t watch enough films in any language, neither French nor English, but I’d like to rectify that and why not start with your recommendations. Thanks also for linking up to #AllAboutFrance, hope you can join in again tomorrow.
I love your link up Phoebe and do hope to join again tomorrow!