Asaccharine, bighearted tale about characters returning to school at an advanced age, Yves Robert’s “Montparnasse-Pondichery” is a wholesome tribute to public education that brims with praise for growth and change at every stage of life. Naive but watchable pic should do nicely at Gallic wickets and on the Euro tube.
Julie (Miou-Miou), 40-year-old single mom to a ravishing young daughter, is a successful wallpaper designer who never received her high school diploma. When a dashing commercial consul (Jacques Perrin) invites her to teach print design near his post in Pondichery, India, Julie goes back to school to get the qualification to enable her to accept the job. The students couldn’t be nicer, and the class clown sweetly courts her.
Julie breaks up with her devoted but condescending b.f., Felix (Maxime Leroux), gets drunk, then gets lost in the labyrinthine Montparnasse subway station, where she meets Leo (director Robert), a former trumpeter with the Paris Opera. At age 70, he’s also studying for a high school diploma, by correspondence, and the two begin a deeply supportive but chaste relationship.
Nearly everything about the story is too good to be true, but characters are appealing and pic’s messages of tolerance, anti-ageism and unqualified love are conveyed with energy. The only truly nasty character is a chic, no-nonsense math teacher (Judith Magre) whose name, Chamot, also sounds like the French word for “camel.”
Nice touches include teary-eyed Julie and Leo telling their life stories while peeling onions. Ill-advised ones include a rap song that tries way too hard and highlights of the Julie-Leo relationship flashing by at pic’s end.
As Julie, Miou-Miou gives a nicely nuanced perf, and 73-year-old helmer Robert (“My Father’s Glory”) sparkles as the easygoing, grandfather-figure musician. As a devoted philosophy prof, Andre Dussollier in fact gets the most screen time, though the tone of the classroom lectures is mostly prankish and light.
Vladimir Cosma’s lively, sometimes dissonant melodies are occasionally invasive. Plentiful closeups add intimacy and will work well for TV showings.