A Few Hours of Spring for a mother and son
by Fabien Lemercier
18/09/2012 - After being unveiled in Locarno and screened during a Special Presentation at the recent Toronto Film Festival, tomorrow Stéphane Brizé's A Few Hours of Spring [trailer] is to be released in 163 French cinemas by Diaphana. Starring remarkable performances by Vincent Lindon and Hélène Vincent, the film accurately and modestly addresses the delicate subject of euthanasia for the terminally ill. But beyond discussing (and meticulously describing) the issue of assisted suicide via a trip to Switzerland (where it is authorised, unlike in France), A Few Hours of Spring is mostly a magnificent portrayal of a difficult mother-son relationship, as they gradually become closer in an atmosphere of emotionally charged silences.
Written by the filmmaker with Florence Vignon (a duo who won the 2010 Cesar for Best Adaptation for Mademoiselle Chambon), the screenplay starts off with Alain, a former lorry driver in his early fifties who was busted for once accepting to transport drugs in his lorry, coming out of prison. He finds himself having to accept any kind of job ("18 months of prison is quite a handicap," slips in the adviser at the job agency), as it turns out one picking out plastic items from a house waste sorting line. But most importantly he also has to return home to live with his slightly obsessive mother (cleanliness!) with whom he barely communicates. Living together in her small home is at times a little stormy ("This isn't your home!", "I won't bother you for long", Each eats supper on their own and tries to win the dog's affection) despite chats with a friendly neighbour (Olivier Perrier). Alain tries to escape (He goes out bowling with an old friend and on a date with Emmanuelle Seigner), but he finds it hard to come to terms with his social status. He also slowly discovers that his mother (who has kept the matter very quiet) has a very advanced brain tumour and has contacted a Swiss association called Dying with Dignity about assisted suicide. And so starts another film, in which the son accompanies his mother towards the death that she has chosen, on a very particular journey marked by reconciliation and the expression of emotions deeply buried within.
Describing popular social milieus and human relations in their most mundane form with great ease, Stéphane Brizé has made a rather poignant drama, in which he never succumbs to the temptation of pathos, but instead proceeds with light touches of realism. With exceptional performances by both main actors, the film brilliantly sticks to the mother-son storyline for a love, life, and death story that resonates in all human existences.
Produced by TS Productions, A Few Hours of Spring was co-produced by Arte France Cinéma, pre-acquired by Canal+ and Ciné +, and supported by the Bourgogne region. Rezo is handling international sales.