Farewell Gary: Working-class heroes
by Vitor Pinto
A far-western imaginary in a post-industrial French town where no heroes resembling Gary Cooper seem to be return to rescue the remaining locals: Nassim Amaouche's feature debut Farewell Gary [+see also:
film profile], shown in Cannes' Critics’ Week, reconciles two distinct worlds – one cinematic, one real – to tell the story of working-class survivors struggling against uncertainty and hoping for a better future.
Amaouche, who also wrote the screenplay, centres the plot on two father-son relationships. Young adult Samir (Yasmine Belmadi) moves back home and soon finds himself working in the same supermarket as his younger brother, while his father (renowned actor-screenwriter Jean-Pierre Bacri) often returns to his former workplace, insisting on repairing a machine that he could not finish as the factory closed. Their neighbour José (Alexandre Bonnin) spends his nights watching Anthony Mann's Man of the West and his days sitting on the street waiting for his father, supposedly Gary Cooper, to return.
A post-pessimistic tale about accepting and leading a transformation, Farewell Gary’s style is somewhere between documentary and fictional escapism. "I wanted to make a film with a direct connection to social reality, without depriving myself of anything formal, and without necessarily moving towards absolute naturalism because my characters are working-class characters”, says Amaouche. “To me, ethical filmmaking is the quest for a certain truth, and truth is not necessarily verisimilitude".
Relationships between relatives and neighbours are subtly illustrated, giving the audience hints about past events and featuring an ending that suggests but does not fully reveal a brighter and communitarian future. Although daily life is tough, the film has a sort of critical, optimistic tone, placing all its hope on the potential of the people it depicts rather than on a non-existing hero. A more developed script, however, could have given the characters a thicker soul, allowing greater identification from audiences.
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