This moving but far from revelatory portrait of a beloved family figure registers as too slight and personal for significant theatrical play.

Dialing down the whimsy several notches, director Michel Gondry turns his camera on a resilient matriarch in “Thorn in the Heart,” a lovely, minor-key ode to his aunt, Suzette Gondry. Inevitably smaller-scaled than his mind-bendingly creative features, this moving but far from revelatory portrait of a beloved family figure registers as too slight and personal for significant theatrical play, though Gondry’s name could see it through to select arthouses. Elsewhere, “Thorn” should cultivate a fest following before eventual tube showings, with special appeal to fans of all things French and bucolic.

Following in the recent footsteps of his countryman Arnaud Desplechin (who made his own family docu with 2007’s “L’aimee”), Gondry draws on extensive home-movie footage and family interviews to frame the life story of his aunt, who worked from 1952-86 as a schoolteacher in a series of villages throughout rural France. Suzette’s relationship with son Jean-Yves (her pupil for many years) and the shadow cast by her husband’s death are the principal threads of this gabby, affectionate film; auds hoping for more of the director’s personal stories — or just plain personality — may be disappointed. Tech package is excellent.

Thorn in the Heart

France

Production

A Mars Distribution release of a Partizan Films presentation. Produced by Georges Bermann. Directed, written by Michel Gondry.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, 16mm-to-HD, HD), Jean-Louis Bompoint; editor, Marie-Charlotte Moreau; sound, Guillaume Le Bras, Claire-Anne Largeron. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Special Screenings), May 15, 2009. Original title: L'epine dans le coeur. Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Suzette Gondry, Jean-Yves Gondry.

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