Michou d’Auber

Director – Thomas Gilou

Writer – Jean Cosmos, Thomas Gilou

Starring – Gérard Depardieu, Nathalie Baye, Mathieu Amalric, Samy Seghir, Medy Kerouani, Mohamed Fellag

Review:

Similar to My Brother Is An Only Child, which I loved, Michou d’Auber aims to combine comedy and drama into one package. Where the mentioned film did it perfectly this has a quite uneven balance of the two, resulting in a sometimes funny and charming but an often confusing experience.

Set in France during the struggle for Algerian independence, Messaoud’s mother is terminally ill and his father, who works long hours at a factory, can’t look after him and his brother, Abdel, anymore so he puts them into foster care. Abdel is taken to work on a farm but Messaoud is taken to live with a childless woman, who hides Messaoud’s Arab origins from her ex-army husband. Re-named Michel/Michou, the young boy has to deal with living with these new people and away from his parents and older brother.

Taking Michou d’Auber for what it, at first, appears to be and what it’s trying to accomplish from the viewer is something which I had to do. Otherwise I would be confused right off the bat as far as what the film was supposed to be. At first it’s a light comedy, what I was explicitly expecting, and for the first hour or so it delivered what it promises to. Taking humour from everyday situations and with the added appeal of a funny and loveable young protagonist. Everything is set up very well, the story compelling enough and serious underneath but with a layer of light comedy on top to keep it from being too serious. As the film goes on, however, it takes some big left turns into extremely serious territories with scenes that were, quite frankly, completely out of place. It was literally like they had switched one of the reels with a different movie at these points and then switched it back when the according scene ended. I felt confusion and annoyance at a few points because of the quick and un-called for shift of gears in the latter half of the film.

Samy Saghir, who plays the young Messaoud, was just terrific here. For an actor as young as he is he did a fantastic job as the lead, completely outdoing all of the older actors in every scene with him. He is charismatic, charming, loveable, funny and just a great actor to watch. I am sure he will get many more roles in the next few years after this and I will look forward to following his career.

He is supported very well by people like Gérard Depardieu, as the hulking, overbearing adoptive father, and Nathalie Baye, as the understanding and very likeable adoptive mother. After his recent fantastic performance in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Mathieu Amalric makes an appearance as Messeoud’s sympathetic teacher and admirer of his stepmother. As far as I can tell as an international audience member the entire supporting cast did their jobs well, laying the ground for young Saghir to walk on.

As much as I hated the sudden shifts in tone from comedy to drama when it was funny it was really funny. Similar to My Brother, this draws comedy from everyday situations and the likeable nature of our main character. Like I have mentioned Messaoud is such a great character to just hang out with and he provides many comedy moments to have you chuckling as the minutes fly by.

So Michou d’Auber may not be all of what it could have been in terms of quality, as the tone is misjudged at times and when the film turns deadly serious it doesn’t really work as well as it should have but having said that it’s not a bad film either. The performances are all great, with a decisively fantastic one from the young Samy Saghir. When the film revels in it’s aimed at comedy it works fantastically, giving the audience more than a few chuckles. The good things in life is something that cinema rarely explores or even acknowledges and happily Michou d’Auber does both.

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