Review: A Difficult Year
- Ecological activism and the issue of over-indebtedness are on the agenda of the new burlesque, humanist, energetic and socially engaged comedy by Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache
"Do I need it? Do I really need it? Do I really need it right now?". It’s into the impossibly modern world of overconsumption, over-indebtedness, climate crisis and militant action aimed at raising the alarm and reversing fate, that the duo composed of Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache have plunged in their usual dynamic, humanist and comic style which is now easily recognised and well-honed (Untouchable [+see also:
film profile], C’est La Vie! [+see also:
film profile], The Specials [+see also:
film profile]), by way of their new feature film A Difficult Year [+see also:
film profile], screened in an international premiere within the Special Presentations section of the 48th Toronto Film Festival, ahead of its release in France on 18 October.
"Sheep", "egotism", "open people’s eyes", "awaken consciences", "stop destroying the planet", "think of future generations"… The small group of ecological activists led by the pasionaria Valentine (Noémie Merlant) are carrying out a series of shock operations to attract media attention. For their part, Albert (Pio Marmaï) and Bruno (Jonathan Cohen) have far more down-to-earth concerns than saving Planet Earth: over-indebted and homeless, they’re more interested in getting by, a bit of wheeler dealing (Albert, a baggage handler at the airport where he sleeps in waiting areas, siphons off and sells liquid products confiscated by security) and surviving day-to-day in the hope that their debts will be written off by the Banque de France thanks to the Phoenix Association where Henri (Mathieu Amalric) volunteers. When our two unscrupulous thieves cross paths with our ecological activists, they detect an opportunity to do good business on the sly. But they’ll need to go along with them, and they ultimately find themselves caught up in increasingly audacious acts…
Shaking off the superfluous to focus on the essential, the film - which begins with a staggeringly hard-hitting prologue - advances at a hectic pace to the tune of an incredible soundtrack (La Valse à mille temps by Jacques Brel, The End by The Doors, Le Freak by Chic, etc.). Following in the wake of the hilarious duo Pio Marmaï - Jonathan Cohen, the filmmakers pull hard on the comedy lever and lean on their very sure, sincere and caring sense of empathy in order to convey their political message – which blends emotions and collapsology - to the widest possible audience, all in very good humour. It’s a cinematographic awareness-raising mission which uses laughter to attack the source of a "lethal", global system and which tries to build a bridge between two parallel worlds (the planet’s defenders and the little people strangled by the cost of living and consumer credit). Without ever masking the endearing, human weaknesses of their characters (quite the contrary), Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache highlight - as is usual in their films - solidarity, conversation, engagement, effort and goodwill under the exciting umbrella of entertainment and in a style which they now master so perfectly that it’s easy to forgive a few easy roads and about-turns (especially at the end).
(Translated from French)
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