When his mum goes off to find work, ten-year-old Eric is shipped off to stay with his handyman dad in a grimy Bogota boarding house. One of dad’s clients, a well-meaning university lecturer, offers to let father and son stay with her family at their opulent rural holiday home over Christmas, completing some furniture restoration to ease their money troubles.
This naturalistic French-Colombian drama at first seems subdued to a fault. But director Franco Lolli’s unwillingness to punch up the conflict as he examines his country’s class divide comes good over the longer term, showing us rounded, complex characters rather than convenient heroes and villains. The bourgeois hostess’s kindness proves volatile, the father’s pride debilitating, the boy’s yearning for the life which will never be his ultimately toxic.
Finding comfort in parental bonding and a spirit of stoic acceptance brings a ray of positivity which finally feels thought-through, duly earned, and stays with you afterwards – even if ‘Gente de Bien’ is a low-key emotional experience while you’re actually watching it.