Review: ‘One Swallow Brought Spring’

A 30-year-old woman drops her life in Paris to buy a goat farm from a solitary curmudgeon in the French Alps in "One Swallow Brought Spring."

A 30-year-old woman drops her life in Paris to buy a goat farm from a solitary curmudgeon in the French Alps in “One Swallow Brought Spring.” Thoughtfully made and solidly played two-hander covers a lot of thematic ground without pushing the pace or forcing the mood as it etches convincing, interwoven portraits of a city-bred woman and a country-bred man, with their respective skills, convictions and insecurities in the face of life, nature and mortality. Pic is also a rare Gallic effort in which a young woman’s wary affection for a man more than twice her age makes a modicum of sense. Film has registered hearty numbers at the local B.O.

Only child Sandrine (Mathilde Seigner), who became a computer techie to please her mom, drops her stressful urban job to attend agricultural college with an eye toward blending Internet skills with hard work in the open air. Ready-to-retire Adrien (Michel Serrault) begrudgingly sells her his isolated goat farm one spring, with a proviso that he lives on in the farmhouse for 18 months. The gruff Adrien’s welcome stops just short of hostile.Sandrine uses the Web to attract visitors, who stay in the refurbished barn and buy her goat cheese and fruit jams. Finally, a health scare convinces Adrien to impart generations of expertise in the face of harsh winter weather and the million things that can go wrong on a farm tended by one person.

First-time helmer/co-scripter Christian Carion grew up on a farm, and pic gradually, touchingly reveals why Adrien has ample cause to be bitter and ornery. Script incorporates recent events in French agriculture with less overt melodrama than the farm-themed “What Is Life?” which was hailed at fests but failed to draw auds.

In her first role since playing the wife in “With a Friend Like Harry…,” Seigner ably holds her own against the always superb vet, Serrault. Shot over two seasons (with a five-month hiatus between), film features imagery that makes the most of spring and winter scenery.

Country boy-turned-movie exec Christophe Rossignon, who produced both Mathieu Kassovitz’s and Tran Anh Hung’s first three features at Lazennec Prods., kicks off a new company, Nord-Ouest, with this outing.

One Swallow Brought Spring

France

Production

A Mars Films release of a Nord-Ouest production, in association with StudioCanal, Artemis Prods., Rhone-Alpes Cinema, Mars Films, MS Prods., with participation of Canal Plus. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Christophe Rossignon. Directed by Christian Carion. Screenplay, Carion, Eric Assous.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Antoine Heberle; editor, Andrea Sedlackova; music, Philippe Rombi; art director, Jean-Michel Simonet; costume designers, Francoise Dubois, Virginie Montel; sound (Dolby), Thomas Gauder; assistant director, Nicolas Cambois; casting, Richard Rousseau. Reviewed at Elysees Biarritz screening room, Paris, July 19, 2001. Running time: 103 MIN.

With

Michel Serrault, Mathilde Seigner, Jean-Paul Roussillon, Frederic Pierrot, Marc Berman, Francoise Bette.
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