A Kid: What forms our identity and where do we find it?
by Vladan Petkovic
- French director Philippe Lioret's eighth feature film is a touching exploration of personal identity and the search for love
French director Philippe Lioret's A Kid [+see also:
interview: Philippe Lioret
film profile], his eighth feature film, screened in Warsaw Film Festival's International Competition. It is a warm-hearted, audience-friendly affair that tackles family love and personal identity, taking these issues to emotional depths that touch the viewer profoundly.
The main character, 35-year-old Mathieu (Pierre Deladonchamps), is a divorced sales manager whose real passion is writing crime fiction. He was left by his wife because his job in retail was too demanding, and it is also one of the reasons he hasn't written a second novel, despite the fact that his debut was quite successful. Although they are separated, he is on good terms with his ex-wife and sees his 6-year-old son every weekend.
One day he gets a call from Canada, explaining that his father, Jean, has died, and left him a package. The caller, a certain Pierre, would like his address so he can send it to him. Mathieu is flabbergasted – he never knew his father was alive, as his mother never wanted to talk about him. Learning that he has two brothers in Montreal, he decides to fly over there and meet them.
At the airport, he is welcomed by Pierre (Gabriel Arcand), a lively septuagenarian doctor, who was Jean's best friend for decades. He gets grumpy at the idea that Mathieu wants to meet the family he never knew existed immediately. They also lost their mother only recently, and will be having a traditional Jewish funeral in two days. And Mathieu never had any idea that he was Jewish. It turns out that his surname Edel was originally Edelstein.
But the funeral will not be an easy affair to organise. This is because Jean, who as far as Pierre can deduce based on his friend’s two previous cardiac episodes, suffered a heart attack while fishing and fell into the lake, meaning his body has yet to be discovered. So his two sons, played by Pierre-Yves Cardinal and Partick Hivon, decide to conduct another search at the lake, where they have a summer house. Mathieu manages to convince Pierre to join him in helping them. Pierre is clearly touched by this wish, despite his own certainty that the family should not be unnecessarily disturbed. As a result of this belief, he makes Mathieu promise that he will not reveal his true identity.
From here, Lioret takes us on a ride through family relations (including Pierre's own, with his charming wife, daughter and two granddaughters) that occasionally get ugly, are sometimes endearing, but always relatable. With a couple of subtly positioned and cleverly used McGuffins, the director gently, and often with graceful humour, leads to a beautifully executed and touching ending that has to do with realising where life’s priorities truly lie, as much as it does with the question of personal identity, and from where our perception of it stems.
The interplay between Deladonchamps and Arcand is the key to achieving this goal, but Cardinal and Hivon also have an impressive episode, in which they reveal how too much hope and pre-set ideas are ruined when reality rears its often ugly head.
Lioret carefully times the rhythm, and uses the great outdoors of Quebec to bring freshness to a film with a mainly interior setting. While scenes happening inside range in mood from almost sweet to quite cynical, the lake setting brings out the wilderness in a much more profound sense than the literal, physical one.