Les Petits Mouchoirs: French Film Review

Holidaying on the beautiful Côte d'Azur, the group's 'petits mouchoirs' soon begin to emerge

François Cluzet is France’s answer to Robert De Niro in this long-awaited follow-up comedy-drama by actor-turned-director Guillaume Canet. His director-debut Tell No One, released in 2006 was a big hit, but this more light-hearted masterpiece had me glued to my seat for a good two and a half hours. The film was originally released in France last year, but featured this year again in selected cinemas due to popular demand.`

The chuckles began as my friend leaned over during the title sequence and commented ‘the French always know how to soften the blow, don’t they.’ He was commenting on the French idiom for little white lies, let petits mouchoirs, which literally translates as “small handkerchiefs”.

The film stars Marion Cotillard, famous for her roles in Public Enemies, La Vie en Rose where she plays France’s icon Edith Piaf, Ma Vie en l’Air and Big Fish to name just a few. The rest of the French dream-team cast include Benoît Magimel, François Cluzet, Gilles Lellouche, Jean Dujardin, Laurent Lafitte, Valerie Bonneton and Pascale Arbillot.

This ensemble of friends travel on their annual vacances to the Côte d’Azur on the French Riviera, (Cap Ferrat to be precise) and are invited to their friends’ beach house belonging to restaurant-owner Max and his wife Véro. A close friend Ludo is hospitalised in Paris following a bad accident (can the French ever avoid lengthy hospital scenes in extremely white rooms?) but as it is the group’s annual tradition, they decide to head south on holiday anyway. With the worry of Ludo festering in the back of their minds, however, tensions rise, consciences inevitably surface and the group’s secrets soon emerge under the pressures as we learn about the weird and wonderful lives of each of the characters: handkerchiefs a-ready! Canet’s balance of trauma intertwined with comedy somehow achieves the perfect cinematic equilibrium.

Highlights of the film for me include the rather comical breakdown of a raging Max, owner of the holiday-home, who obsesses so much about a random weasel infestation of the property that it drives him insane, taking to the walls with an axe to scare the creatures off…this manic episode is deliberately set to make the audience laugh however…and just as it gets you giggling, the characters themselves break down and laugh too, as if uncannily synced with the audience’s cue for amusement.  The boat-crash-on-land scene triggered a greater laughter-fit for me personally due to the calmness that ensues in Cotillard’s phone call, as if oblivious to his atrocious sailing technique! I won’t reveal the rest of the scenes for those of you who are yet to see it, but you are in for some unexpected treats along the way!

Les Petits Mouchoirs has a little bit of everything to tickle your fancy, from dramatic storylines, to the notorious hot-headed passion de la France and finally to what the French really are about: bon vivants, gourmet-loving individuals with strong family values.

All in all, I rate this film ‘MAGNIFIQUE!’

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