Grocers Son delivers hope, despair |

Grocers Son delivers hope, despair

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Film MovementClotilde Hesme and Nicolas Cazal star in the French drama The Grocers Son, showing Wednesday and Thursday at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen.

As the nearby supermarket rakes in a fortune, and his own tiny, rural grocery-and-delivery business barely plods along, Monsieur Sforza bemoans his fate: A family that just gets by, he weeps, with a bitter shake of his head.Actually, its an optimistic statement one of the few in The Grocers Son. In the French drama, directed and co-written by Eric Guirado, the Sforzas are getting by only in the sense that no one has taken an axe to the rest of the family members. In fact, no one has died, although one has tried. And though they are, technically, on speaking terms, the sentiments generally run along the lines of, Im out of here and I never want to see you again!Monsieur Sforza (Daniel Duval) would seem the likeliest primary source for all this misery. His face is filled with deep wrinkles, perfectly conveying his crusty outlook on life. He blames his family for the professional misfortune, for the grocery van that schleps around the countryside, catering to colorful old pensioners who are hopelessly in arrears on their payments.Monsieur Sforza, though, is central to the story only in that his woebegone outlook has infected the rest of the family. Madame Sforza (Jeanne Goupil) is well-meaning but ineffectual, essentially a bystander to the emotional storm. Franois (Stphan Gurin-Tilli), the older offspring, is handsome and well-to-do, but beneath that exterior is trouble a collapsing marriage, depression and a severe distaste for his brother, Antoine (Nicolas Cazal).Antoine is the one who was wise enough to leave for the city, where he waits tables and has a demeaning boss who has essentially taken the place of his father. Antoines leaving makes him the center of the story; as The Grocers Son opens, Monsieur Sforza has suffered a heart attack. Antoine hesitantly shows up at his dads bedside.Even more hesitantly, he takes over his fathers delivery route. It is a miserable fit all around. Antoine is depressed over the small-time nature of the business; he resents having to fill in for his dad. Being home puts him in closer feuding distance with his brother and mother. And driving around in his van in the quiet countryside, instead of calming him, gives him undistracted time to look at himself and his family.Antoine makes one near-desperate grasp at better things. He has long had eyes on an attractive neighbor from the city, Claire (Clotilde Hesme). She, too, is looking for a way upward; late in her 20s, she is looking to continue her studies, at a graduate program in Spain. Antoine has been wary of making any kind of move on Claire, but with his relocation to the village, and with Claire in need of support, both financial and emotional, he makes a tentative move to connect, and invites her to come with him.The two take over the route, drive daily through the mountains, get to know their customers and their eccentric habits, get to know one another mostly to no avail. There is no quick-and-easy change of fortunes here. Antoine and Claire still bicker; he manipulates her in an offensive way. Relations among the Sforzas get only more tense.The Grocers Son ends with more issues unresolved than tied up neatly. And thank goodness for that. What we are left with is a movie that trusts the audiences patience, and its desire to see life portrayed for what it is messy and confused, the hopefulness and striving intertwined with despair and failure. There is a charm in the way this duality is presented here.

The Grocers Son shows Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 15 and 16, at Aspens Wheeler Opera

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