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
A not so usual summer holiday for 2 sisters and their parents
Nos plus belles vacances (new)
A group of Parisians goes through "culture shock" in Bretagne
Un air de famille
Just the usual awkward dinner party...
How to survive a visit from your in-laws
Un conte de noël
The weirdest Christmas party you'll ever attend
La famille Bélier
A family you will surely fall in love with
De l'autre côté du lit
How switching sides meant a lot more than he imagined...
La guerre est déclarée
A stunning hymn to grief, confusion and parenthood
Qu'est-ce qu'on a fait au bon Dieu?
How to deal with different cultures when you get married