Conversations With My Gardener
- Tom Dawson
- 13 November 2008
When a successful Parisian painter (Daniel Auteil) returns to the rural childhood home he has inherited in the Rhone-Alps region of southern France, he places an advert for somebody to rejuvenate the property’s unkempt garden. The first applicant (Robert Guediguian regular Jean-Pierre Darroussin) turns out to have been an old school friend, whom he hasn’t seen for decades. While the two men have since led very different existences they relish each other’s company, and talk freely about their respective life experiences.
Adapted from Henri Cueco’s novel, this intimate two-hander from veteran writer-director Jean Becker (One Deadly Summer, Children of the Marshland) might seem slight on paper, but it’s a surprisingly moving study of male friendship. The female supporting characters, including the gardener’s wife (Hiam Abbass), painter’s estranged wife (Fanny Cottençon), his grown-up daughter (Élodie Navarre), and his on-off girlfriend (Alexia Barlier) make little impact here: the focus is very much on the exchanges between our two unnamed protagonists, who affectionately refer to one another as ‘Dupinceau’ and ‘Dujardin’.
Becker has found two ideal actors in Auteil and Darroussin to inhabit these roles, and it’s a pleasure to watch their characters simply spending time together and taking a genuine interest in how they each perceive the world. Unobtrusively shot and thoughtfully scored, Conversations With My Gardener quietly celebrates the supposedly ‘simpler’ things in life, meriting its poignant coda.
GFT, Glasgow & Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 21 Nov–Thu 4 Dec.