The Tasting [Le dégustation] — Alliance Française French Film Festival 2023

Review by Michele E. Hawkins.

Jacques (Bernard Campan), owner of a wine shop, isn’t doing so well.  He has both health and financial problems and no means to hire the help he needs.  Hortense (Isabelle Carré), a woman doing all she can to make her life meaningful, happens to go into Jacques’s shop one day to buy a bottle of wine for a special occasion.  Guided by Jacques as to which wine she should buy, and impressed by his knowledge and appreciation for wine, Hortense expresses her desire to join his next wine-tasting event.

From so simple a meeting unfold the hidden stories of these two ordinary people’s lives.

Campan as Jacques and Carré as Hortense deliver sensitive and nuanced performances as a man and a woman each dealing with profound loss and endless longing.  But, where Hortense, though realistic about the odds, still hopes for joy and fulfilment, Jacques sees a future lived in unending regret.  And then, to add to his difficulties, he finds himself with a reluctant apprentice, Steve (Mounir Amamra), a young man who is not only in trouble but who doesn’t want to know about working if it involves doing anything he finds boring or considers beneath him — which includes pretty-much everything.

Bringing depth and revelation to these three characters are Guillaume (Eric Viellard), Jacques’ best friend; Dr Milmont (Olivier Claverie), a friend to Jacques who with kindness and wisdom seeks not only to keep Jacques alive but also to see him value his life; and Hortense’s mother, Danièle (Geneviève Mnich), whose touted religiosity does little to limit her taking every opportunity to criticise her daughter.  The wine shop too is in itself almost a character, with its sense of history, its nooks and crannies, its cellar and dusty wine bottles.

The Tasting is a layered exploration of the fragility of the human heart, both physiologically and metaphorically; of the way life so often deals out unfair cards; and of the power of a little good faith and kindness.  It is also the story of choice when faced with forks in life’s road, especially when one fork leads to the unknown.  But what most makes The Tasting a rewarding couple of hours of reflective viewing are the likeability of its lead characters and the subtle realism of their interactions.

Screening at Palace cinemas.

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