The Girl from Paris

(Une Hirondelle a fait le Printemps)


The Girl from Paris is one of those cute, old-fashioned films that is every bit as warm as it is obvious. Although Sandrine (Mathilde Seigner, Alias Betty, With a Friend Like Harry), the girl from the title, has more screen time, the film is actually about Adrien (Michel Serrault, Vajont, Belphegor, Phantom of the Louvre). Adrien's wife died over a decade ago. He has heart problems, and has finally decided to sell his farm. He lives in a secluded area, far from other people, and his farm is the culmination of his life's work. He is a crotchety old man who will not let go easily. The film portrays a dilemma also present in America; the demise of the small farm (well, not quite a dilemma, since technology today has large farms producing huge amounts of food). The people that live around Adrien are old, and there are not enough people who want to take their place.

So when Sandrine expresses an interest in buying his farm, he is extremely skeptical. The only information she knows about farming is from studying, not from actual farming. Plus, in Adrien's somewhat old-fashioned worldview, she is a woman. Adrien is going to retire to family house, but it is unavailable for 18 months, so the agreement is that he will stay at the farm in the meantime. So Sandrine sets off to her business, working the farm and turning it into a small lodge. Children and tourists can come and experience nature (and pay Sandrine to pick fruit). She also sells goat cheese to tourists over the Internet. In other words, she is adjusting fine.

Adrien will have none of this, and goes as far as sabotaging small things to create a dependency. He thinks he is doing this to test Sandrine, and eventually drive her off, but what he doesn't realize is that he is lonely and Sandrine becomes like a daughter to him. She has the skill to continue the farm after he leaves, and he's too stubborn to see the good in her. His treatment of Sandrine is cold and abrupt, and turns her off to him. Things begin to change when winter arrives, and the two actually begin spending time together.

The reason The Girl from Paris comes off as sentimental instead of sappy is the script. Director Christian Carion (Monsieur Le Depute) co-wrote the script with Eric Assous (Irene, Very Opposite Sexes) keep the emotions from overflowing, with the help of a very restrained performance by Serrault. Adrien is trying to connect, but is a self-admitted cantankerous coot. However, he realizes his shortcomings and is trying hard to overcome them. Seigner's Sandrine serves as a good foil for Adrien. She is ambitious and headstrong, and does not like to admit she's wrong, which makes things ripe for confrontation. There is confrontation, but everything Carion makes everything so gentle and warm-hearted that it almost feels like there isn't any. In their own sweet way, Adrien and Sandrine eventually grow to be fond of each other, just as Carion convinces the audience that this is a nice little cute movie.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 43 minutes, French with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains some minor language and sensuality, a PG or PG-13.

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