The Well Digger’s Daughter
Beautiful landscapes and convincing performances in polished if unadventurous directorial debut
A quarter of a century after his acclaimed performances as the shifty hunchback Ugolin in Claude Berri’s Jean de Florette and its sequel Manon des Sources, French actor Daniel Auteuil plays it safe in his directorial debut with this polished if unadventurous remake of Marcel Pagnol’s 1940 melodrama.
It’s tale of love across the class divide, with the beautiful 18-year-old Patricia (the ridiculously pretty Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, the mermaid from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), the devoted daughter of Provençal well digger Pascal (Auteuil himself), falling for a dashing pilot Jacques (Nicolas Duvauchelle) on the eve of WWII. The latter is the son of a wealthy local hardware-store owner (Robert Guédiguian regular Jean-Pierre Darroussin), but Pascal has already indicated that Patricia should marry his middle-aged colleague Félipe (Kad Merad).
Lovers of bucolic Vaucluse landscapes won’t complain and the performances are convincing enough, yet Auteuil’s film feels like it could have been made before the French New Wave. To paraphrase Bogart’s Rick Blaine in Casablanca, it’s unclear whether these characters’ problems amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
Selected release from Fri 9 Dec.