After years of testosterone running rampant in the cinema, creating a tearjerker for men is no easy task. French Canadian, Sebastien Rose makes the effort in the film, 'Life With My Father,' with a great deal of success.
The film opens on Patrick, a pharmaceutical executive who wastes his days analyzing statistics in order to sell more Viagra. Patrick's younger brother, Paul lives a Bohemian lifestyle of pot smoking and wine tasting in their father's collapsing house. These brothers maintain an emotionally distant relationship built on condescension and contempt. Their distance is altered when their prodigal father, Francois returns home impotent and out of money.
Patrick is burdened with the responsibility of renovating and selling Francois' home while Paul attempts to finish his novel. Things get worse when Francois becomes terminally ill.
The first act deftly builds character development through masculine humor that makes each character multi dimensional.
The tone downshifts into the melodramatic during the second act. Each of the actors delicately handles the abrupt transition from comedy to drama. While the movie walks that fine line of turning heavy drama into a soap opera, it stays the right course with subtle performances. In particular, Raymond Bouchard gives a standout performance as the self-absorbed philandering father with one more lesson to teach his sons before he passes away.
Rose adds depth and symbolism into the film's location and production design, making the house a veritable metaphor for Francois' condition.
Inevitably, this film will be pinned against the former French Canadian import, 'The Barbarian Invasions,' and rightfully so. The themes of a philandering father and his estranged son ring true in both films. There is no doubt that 'Life' is missing a great deal of the wit and subtleties mastered in 'Invasions.' That said, 'Life With My Father' remains alive with masculine humor and a genuine heart rarely found in male driven films.
"Life With My Father," is screening in competition at the AFI Fest 2005. Ticket information can be obtained at www.afifest.com
In French with English subtitles.