Ropert’s Wolberg Family warmly received
The Wolberg Family [+see also:
film profile], the debut feature by Axelle Ropert, recent darling of the Directors’ Fortnight (where she previously presented her medium-length film Purple Star and a film by Serge Bozon that she co-wrote), was warmly introduced by the sidebar’s director, Olivier Père, and met with enthusiastic applause.
The director has delivered a well-directed family melodrama centring on a provincial Jewish family who go through the typical rough patches along life’s long, quiet river.
This family is dominated by father Simon (François Damiens). Also the town mayor, he holds these two roles so close to his heart that the decent and humorous man he can be is somewhat eclipsed by his determination to fulfil the two duties perfectly, by his sententious ways and his rather grotesque predilection for rituals and solemnity. This at the risk of alienating his close relations – just as he has already driven away his father and, in his words, far too "Bohemian" brother-in-law (Bozon).
While he continually professes boundless love for his wife Marianne (Valérie Benguigui), his two children and his town, his partner starts to have doubts about their marriage, his daughter Delphine threatens to leave home as soon as she comes of age and his shy, sweet young son is pained by these inconspicuous but potentially explosive disagreements.
Paradoxically, his ideal of the family threatens to destroy his own and damage the beautiful facade he is so keen to maintain (not for nothing does he have his own ideas about the curtains, or that his brother-in-law asks him what he "really" does with his days), like the cancer which secretly eats away at him.
This is all the more true as he doesn’t need to attach such great importance to family love for it to exist, for although we initially discover that behind this love lie conflicts, we realise that it transcends them, in the final scene where all the family dynamics reach their critical point (a moment that is to Delphine the "pinnacle" of their family life).
Aided by the actors’ excellent performances, Ropert skilfully develops each of her characters and depicts the different aspirations of each member of this unified, family whole. The simple, everyday portrait painted in The Wolberg Family subtly explores the stifling effects of family love as well as its enduring nature, one of the morals of this soberly moving story in the race for the Cannes Camera d'Or.
(Translated from French)
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