Film Review by Kam Williams
Nenette (Josiane Balasko) never left home because of her mentally-disability. So, you can imagine the shock when her mother, the loving, lifelong caretaker who had shielded her from the cruel world for over a half-century, suddenly passes away.
Finding herself in desperate straits, the autistic orphan decides to search for Antoine Berard, the long-lost father she’s never known. So, with her pet turtle Tootie in tow, Nenette sets out on foot for Angers, the town where he’s rumored to run the local pharmacy.
En route, however, she becomes lost in the woods and is lucky to stumble upon punk rock ravers inclined not only to protect her from the elements but to give Nenette a ride to her destination. Unfortunately, the disheveled drifter soon discovers that her dad has been dead for over 15 years.
The good news is that the business was inherited by his son, Paul (Michel Blanc), a half-brother Nenette didn’t know she had. The bad news is that he’s an irascible misanthrope who doesn’t get along with his customers, his staff, or even his own family.
Worse, when Nenette shows up unannounced, the miserly curmudgeon is initially more worried about protecting his inheritance than his vulnerable sibling’s welfare. Therefore, he starts circling the wagons instead of welcoming her with open arms.
First, he consults an attorney about cutting her out of their father’s estate. Then, he hastily makes arrangements to ship her right back where she came from.
That plan goes totally awry when well-meaning Nanette accidentally spikes his coffee with a couple of hits of Ecstasy. The mood-altering drug puts Paul into a euphoric state for an eventful day of redemption during which he proceeds to mend fences with estranged friends and relatives. Thus, the burning question becomes whether the narcotic will have a temporary or salutary effect on him.
Written and directed by, and starring Josiane Balasko, Demi-Soeur is a touching tale which might best described as an engaging blend of Nebraska (2013) and Amelie (2001). For, Nenette exhibits the same dogged determination as Bruce Dern in the former film, as well the endearing naivete which enabled Audrey Tautou’s title character’s ability to touch the hearts of everyone she encountered in the latter.
A poignant parable which puts what matters most in proper perspective.
Very Good (3 stars)
In French with subtitles
Running time: 86 minutes
Distributor: Rialto Pictures / StudioCanal
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