Antoinette in the Cévennes [Antoinette dans les Cévennes] — Alliance Française French Film Festival 2021

The school holidays are imminent, and teacher Antoinette (Laure Calamy) is excited by the prospect of a clandestine week with her married lover, Vladimir (Benjamin Lavernhe), whose daughter she teaches.  But things go awry when Vladimir’s wife, Eléonore (Olivia Côte), books a walking tour in the Cévennes for the family.  Initially upset, Antoinette comes up with the idea of booking herself on the same holiday and surprising her lover, who she expects will be thrilled to see her.

Arriving at the tour’s departure point, Antoinette’s lack of preparation heralds what is evidently not going to be the idyll of her imagination.  In fact, far from the romantic frolic she anticipates, Antoinette ends up pulling, dragging, coaxing, and begging her obstinate donkey companion, Patrick, along the trail with her.  But donkeys can be wiser than they seem, and Patrick is one such.  With him by her side, and assisted by some kindly souls from time to time, Antoinette ends up becoming freer and richer than she could have imagined.

Laure Calamy gives a funny, loveable performance as the deeply infatuated and somewhat incompetent Antoinette; Benjamin Lavernhe is aptly unlikeable as the self-serving, weak cheating husband, Vladimir; and Olivia Côte is utterly believable as the less than naïve wife, Eléonore.  But, of everyone, it is Patrick who is sure to capture your heart.

An entertaining, fun romp, Antoinette in the Cévennes will have you smiling, laughing, and even occasionally suppressing the impulse to call out “DON’T DO IT!”.  You may even wish you could kidnap Patrick and stroll beside him through the enticingly beautiful Cévennes of southern France.

Screening at Palace cinemas.

— MICHELE E. HAWKINS

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