A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this G-rated French film based on the memoirs of novelist Marcel Pagnol won't feel quite as G-rated to some American viewers. Boys frolic naked (everything is visible) while bathing outdoors, Marcel's mom is shown breastfeeding, there's a lot of talk about how babies are born (and the wrong conclusion is reached), and boys smoke sticks in the country. Also, Marcel's dad works hard to become a competent hunter and eventually shoots two birds. This story takes place in 1900 showing kids what a typical school looked like back then and shows the beauty of the untamed French countryside.
What's the story?
Acclaimed French novelist Marcel Pagnol remembers snippets of his childhood as a school teacher's oldest and most precocious son. He can read before kindergarten and his mother (Nathalie Roussel) forbids it -- his brain could explode. When he finally enters school he's told to keep quiet while the other kids catch up, so he daydreams. He witnesses the courtship of his Aunt Rose (Therese Liotard) and comes to admire his Uncle Jules (Didier Pain), who takes Marcel's family with them to a summer holiday in the French countryside when Marcel is 11 (Julien Ciamaca). Marcel declares that summer the best of his life as he befriends a local boy who shows him everything about living in the country and watches with some trepidation his bookworm father (Philippe Caubere) try his hand at hunting.
Is it any good?
Anyone with nostalgia for their favorite lazy get-away-from-it-all vacation will enjoy this memoir. Kids who can't look back on enough summers to have nostalgia may get a little bored, except when Marcel meets his country friend and they get into some serious exploring.
The acting seems a little clunky -- maybe it's the dubbing getting in the way -- but the remembrances of childhood Pagnol selects to piece together still hold a poignancy, and sometimes real humor. His father's hunting exploits are both funny and an important moment in Marcel's understanding of who is father is. It's enough to make the viewer wish, along with Marcel, that his summer would never end.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the process of creating a memoir. How are they constructed differently? Why do you think the author included snippets from different parts of his childhood? Does it feel like a complete story?
What did you learn about life in the year 1900? Why didn't Marcel's father want a telephone in the house? Why do you think Marcel's mother thought it was dangerous for him to read so young?
How are French movies different from American ones? How would this movie be different if it was produced in Hollywood?
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