Nature and human nature are explored with wit and whimsy in “A Man, A Real One,” a strikingly original two-hander that follows a French couple over the course of 10 years and some stunning locations in both Ibiza and the Pyrenees. Focusing on how the optics of love at first sight are distorted by the demands of work and children, scripting/helming team of brothers Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu uses flash-forwards with assurance to convey the bifurcations that make “happily ever after” as wobbly a cliché as “the check’s in the mail.” Modest in scale but ambitious all the same, funny, romantic pic with silly-played-straight musical interludes is a real find. Biz since opening in Gaul May 28, on the back of positive reviews, has been good.
Telecommunications exec Maryline (Helene Fillieres) and struggling artist Boris (Mathieu Amalric) meet when he presents his industrial film to her company’s brass. The pic is ill received, but by that evening they’re an item. Although she’s a head taller than he is, pic does a superb job of demonstrating the sexual electricity that suggests they were meant to be together.
Cut immediately to five years later, when the couple has two kids. She’s working harder than ever for the same firm and he’s a frustrated househusband who’s been toiling over the same movie script since they met. A scene in which Boris, toting his measles-flecked son, arrives for a script conference with an unsettlingly intense development staffer (Eva Ionesco) is a hoot.
The family travels to Ibiza where Maryline’s company is planning to build a branch office. In exquisite surroundings, snap decisions are made, with serious consequences.
Narrative then abruptly flips ahead another five years for a suspenseful and affecting chapter in the majestic Pyrenees. The brothers’ 47-minute “La Breche de Roland,” which played in Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight in 2000, was also lensed in the same mountains.
Ode to the eventual rewards of emotional discomfort unspools with sometimes strange but always convincing strokes. Though pic concentrates on the fortunes of two specific individuals, material will speak to anyone who’s ever felt overwhelmed by the juggling act of earning a partner’s respect while also trying to earn a living.
Thesps are excellent, with Amalric’s impressions of prehistoric birds’ mating calls an offbeat treat. At three junctures, Amalric and Fillieres sing purpose-built ditties as the camera hones in with tasteful fluidity.