My Donkey, My Lover & I (4 stars)

My Donkey, My Lover & I

Sunny and spirit-lifting French farce featuring endearing work from Laure Calamy

Inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's hiking adventure (immortalised in Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes), this delightful French comedy boasts sparkling work from Call My Agent!'s Laure Calamy. Calamy is the film's lovestruck and hapless protagonist, Antoinette Lapouge, whose romantic folly becomes the talk of the Cévennes when she rashly pursues her lover Vladimir (Benjamin Lavernhe) and his family on a trekking holiday, and finds herself wrangling with an ass.

We first meet this bubbly primary school teacher when she hijacks her class's end-of-year performance, dolling herself up inappropriately and joining the kids in a rendition of a melancholy love song, directed at the man she's having an affair with, who is one of the watching parents. This brilliantly bemusing episode makes for an appropriate introduction to Antoinette's character, showing not only the shamelessness but also the utter cluelessness of this hopelessly romantic character who, despite her morally dubious actions, is actually rather sweet.

Soon Antoinette is booking herself onto a hike which aims to retrace Stevenson's steps, aware that her lover has done the same. But when she arrives at the first inn of the journey, Vladimir and his family are nowhere to be seen. Instead, she explains to the assembled guests the reason for her trip, creating quite a stir. Antoinette is also the only one of them who has opted to travel with a donkey; when she's assigned Patrick, a truly stubborn mule, she quickly realises why, and the pair lag pathetically behind on each leg of the journey, leaving Antoinette at first fuming at Patrick, though later he becomes her confidant.

Writer-director Caroline Vignal does a lovely job of balancing the farce, utter beguilingness of the surroundings, and humanising her emotionally vulnerable lead, who's clearly in for quite the confrontation. It's a sunny, non-judgemental, ultimately spirit-lifting tale, and Calamy's animated turn is stupendously entertaining, as Antoinette wears her heart embarrassingly on her sleeve and falls hook, line and sinker for a donkey.

Available to watch on Curzon Home Cinema from Fri 5 Mar.

My Donkey, My Lover and I

  • 4 stars
  • 2020
  • France, Belgium
  • 1h 37min
  • Directed by: Caroline Vignal
  • Cast: Laure Calamy, Benjamin Lavernhe, Olivia Côte

A woman follows her secret lover and his wife and daughter on their donkey trekking holiday in Cévennes National Park.