Audrey Tatou gained international prominence in the 2001 French film Amelie. Despite hearing about her gamine charm and comparisons to another Audrey (Hepburn), this is the first film of Tatou’s films that I have seen.
The French title is Ensemble, c’est tout and is based on a novel of the same name which translated to English means, together, that’s everything. But for some strange, inexplicable reason the English title is Hunting and Gathering.
This romantic comedy is the story of three very different individuals, Camille, Franck (anyone else getting visions of Martin Short’s version in Father of the Bride?), and Philibert. Camille is living a dead end life, working in a minimum wage job, coping with her perpetually complaining mother, living in a barely habitable apartment and wasting away from lack of nourishment.
Philibert and Franck are roommates in the same building as Camille, temporarily sharing a luxury apartment owned by Philibert’s family. Philibert is shy and stutters, but is also intelligent, refined and kind. Franck is his complete opposite, angry, abrasive, overworked and underappreciated as a sous chef in a local restaurant. On his only day off each week, he goes to visit his unhappy grandmother at the nursing home where she resides.
After a chance encounter one evening as they enter the building, Philibert and Camille become friends and after Camille becomes sick, Philibert moves her into the apartment he shares with Franck. This does not sit well with Franck and upsets the balance in the apartment creating friction among the characters, particularly between Franck and Camille.
Despite Franck’s rudeness, he eventually recognizes the positive influence Camille has on Philibert and grudgingly convinces her to stay. This situation comes to be of great benefit for all three characters and acts as a catalyst for their personal growth. As their relationships develop and deepen they form their own family of sorts which eventually reaches out to include Franck’s grandmother.
I definitely think that the French title accurately describes the film. Individually, Franck, Philibert and Camille are lonely people, drifting through life, not living up to their full potential. It is only when they come together, that their lives begin to take on direction and meaning. In today’s world of busyness and hyper digital connection, it seems even more important not to lose the personal human connection which we struggle to maintain. I read a report recently which highlighted the toll that loneliness and social isolation can take. Studies showed that chronic loneliness puts us at higher risk for certain diseases and that lonely adults are 25 percent more likely to die prematurely. It’s interesting to note that so many people today are searching for connection and community, a place to belong.
Although, Ensemble c’est tout does touch on this phenomenon, it is not meant to be a sociological study of the issue. It is not a film of great importance or depth, but one that charmingly entertains. In branching out into foreign films, I find I have a preference for those of French origin, mainly because I have always been in love with France and it’s culture. One thing I am starting to notice is the casual attitude the French have towards nudity. In the few films I have seen so far, the scenes where nudity is on display have nothing to do sex or enticement, but simply come about as a natural part of life. In this film, the Camille is an artist who loves to draw portraits. In one scene she is sketching Franck’s grandmother who is mostly covered, but has one breast exposed.
The French also seem to display an attitude of laissez faire in the romantic relationships depicted on screens whereas in American films, it is much more intentional and even intensely depicted.
This being the first Audrey Tatou film I’ve seen, I can predict I will most likely become a fan. She was not overtly feminine in this role and yet I can see why she has drawn comparisons to Audrey Hepburn. I have actually seen Guillaume Canet, the actor who plays Franck, in another foreign film I love, Joyeux Noel (which also stars Diane Kruger), in which he plays a French Lieutenant during WWI, so I can say that he ably played two very different roles and made them believable.
While this isn’t a particularly inspiring or fascinating film, I found it very watchable and entertaining. The acting is solid, the story is interesting and relatable and it has a happy ending which I always appreciate. This film is currently available on Amazon. As for me, I will be checking out more Audrey Tatou films.