Le Grand chemin is a bittersweet heartwarmer about a city boy’s near-traumatic stay in the country with a childless couple. Scripted from personal memories and directed with warm restraint by Jean-Loup Hubert, production offers a good blend of pathos and humor, and excellent performances from adult and child thesps alike.
Hubert cast his own son, Antoine, in the pivotal role of a sensitive nine-year-old Parisian packed off by his pregnant mother (Christine Pascal) to spend the summer with an old girlfriend (Anemone) and her husband (Richard Bohringer) in their isolated village [in the late 1950s].
Disconcerted by the unfamiliar environment, the boy befriends a slightly older local girl who initiates him into the mysteries of rural life. The youngster, troubled by the unexplained separation of his parents, finds himself the object of a tug-of-war between Anemone and Bohringer, who vie for his affections to replace the child they lost at birth years ago.
Hubert’s script has conscious echoes of Rene Clement’s Forbidden Games and other classics about children, but there is freshness and poignancy in his dialog and direction of actors. The kids, both new to acting, are fetching – Vanessa Guedj, 11, is particularly winning as the savvy, precocious little village girl. Real acting honors go to Anemone and Bohringer as the embittered rubes whose conjugal life died with their child.