Review: My Donkey, My Lover and I
- Laure Calamy and Patrick the donkey steal the show in Caroline Vignal's funny and original comedy, a work awarded the Cannes Official Selection Label and which is soon to hit cinemas in France
"It this your donkey? Is he giving you a hard time? It’s the same for everyone, you have to learn to get along." When, on a romantic whim, the protagonist of Caroline Vignal’s My Donkey, My Lover and I [+see also:
film profile] - awarded the 73rd Cannes Film Festival’s Official Selection Label and distributed in French cinemas by Diaphana from 16 September - decides to embark on a trek for which she is in no way prepared, she has no idea that she’s simultaneously triggering an epic countdown which will lead to her own self-discovery. It’s an initiatory journey set to the tune of a romantic comedy and against vast, magnificent landscapes, but it’s also a hilarious "buddy movie" which unites a woman and a donkey, paints a moving portrait and magnifies the virtues of stripping back to the essentials and getting back to nature (without concealing the complications such a process involves).
"Et je sens la fièvre qui me mord". Just like in Véronique Sanson’s song Amoureuse, which teacher Antoinette (Laure Calamy) performs, ablaze, before an audience of disconcerted parents at the school’s end of year celebration, our protagonist is in full emotional and sensual bloom, owing to her secret affair with Vladimir (Benjamin Lavernhe), the father of one of her Year 5 students. But their plans for a week of freedom in Paris are brutally upended: Vladimir, his wife (Olivia Côte) and their daughter have changed plans and are now trotting off into the Cévennes region to embark on a hike with a donkey. But never mind! Impulsive Antoinette sets off on their trail (without telling anyone) and on the path walked and described in 1879 by Scottish writer Robert-Louis Stevenson in Travels With a Donkey in the Cévennes… On the itinerary are six stages of roughly twenty kilometres a day, with nightly stopovers scheduled in gites with all their communal meals and shared dorms.
Suffice to say, Antoinette causes an immediate stir among the seasoned hikers, especially after swiftly confessing the sentimental reason behind her trip. Her fame grows as the days pass and as the exhausting (but also cruelly funny) hardships mount up behind her, starting with the need to make her partner – the donkey, Patrick – advance. But what will happen if Antoinette’s wish to cross paths with Vladimir (encumbered by his young family) actually comes true?
Carried by the sensational Laure Calamy, who is wonderful in her delivery of a comic-come-pathetic performance whilst also offering up a moving display of bravery in adversity, the film paints a very beautiful portrait of a woman through the mirror of the unexpected bond she slowly forges with Patrick; one which starts off strained given the animal’s contrary nature, but which sees them gradually grow accustomed to one another (with Antoinette telling him a bit about her life, notably her "gift for falling in love with the worst possible guy, at the worst possible time, in the worst possible place"). Together they form a duo which raises a lot of laughs, gracing a storyline which proceeds at the soothing pace of the walk and of the unexpected encounters they experience amidst nigh-on desert-like, breath-taking panoramas. It’s an ideal setting for re-centring oneself and for a feature film as charming as this one.
(Translated from French)
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