Dripping with authenticity but verging on inert until the moving final reel, “A Year in My Life” is a beautifully crafted autobiographical account of vet thesp Daniel Duval’s adoption by a farm couple in 1954 when he was 9. Child actor Raphael Katz as Duval’s alter-ego Pippo gives a lovely perf in the midst of excellent French thesps playing salt-of-the-earth types who believe in hard work, discipline and the very occasional encouraging word. While this is fine fare for kiddiefests, tale is probably most relevant to folks 50 and over.
Craggily handsome Duval, whose last major helming effort, the prostitution-themed “La Derobade,” racked up an impressive 2.8 million tickets in 1979, brings solid but elliptical affection to his portrait of a bygone ultra-Gallic era.
Only child Pippo ends up in an orphanage after his folks are arrested under vague but sordid circumstances. Kindly young farmer Gustave (Jean-Paul Rouve) and his humorless wife Cecile (Anne Brochet) acquire him as one would a cow or farm machinery — although perhaps they’d have been more talkative about the latter.
Pippo has skewed-against-him “400 Blows”-style run-ins with classmates and teacher (Denis Podalydes) at school, befriends the elderly widow (Annie Giradot) some villagers believe is a witch and tries to fit in, often dawdling to luxuriate in nature.
Vladimir Cosma’s vintage-sounding score and leisurely pic’s reverent widescreen appreciation of the land being plowed convey craft and sensitivity. Heartening conclusion is a welcome surprise.