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The House by the Sea

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
La casa junto al mar
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Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Veteran French auteur Robert Guédiguian delivers a ruminative family drama that unfolds pleasurably under the Mediterranean winter sun.

A tiny Mediterranean inlet nestling under a passing railway viaduct, the little community of Mejean is so photogenic it looks like a film set. With second-homers having snapped up most local property, however, it’s now deserted off-season, leaving the brasserie owner (Gérard Meylan) struggling to survive – especially now that his elderly father’s been incapacitated by a stroke. That’s the tragic catalyst for a clan gathering, bringing his stage-actress sister (Ariane Ascaride) home for the first time in years after a previous family cataclysm, while their miserabilist lefty brother (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) also pitches up with his unfeasibly youthful fiancée (Anaïs Demoustier).

It’s a time for reflection all round, as the film moseys along at a decidedly steady pace. The performers, though, are so comfortable in their roles it’s hard not to get drawn into these tangled, messy lives. This is ever-watchable leading lady Ascaride’s nineteenth film appearance for her veteran auteur hubby Robert Guédiguian; the rest of the cast are regulars too, and the feeling of being among family comes across strongly. Insights suggest the need for old-school socialists to leave nostalgia behind and engage with the realities of a changing France, even if Guédiguian’s well-meaning attempt to tackle the Mediterranean migrant crisis proves ultimately rather clumsy. Overall, it’s a generous, knowing, slightly scrappy encounter, possibly best appreciated by those who’ve warmed to previous Guédiguian fare like ‘A La Place du Coeur’ and ‘La Ville est Tranquille’ and will enjoy the cast reunion. 

Written by
Trevor Johnston

Release Details

  • Rated:12A
  • Release date:Friday 11 January 2019
  • Duration:107 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Robert Guédiguian
  • Screenwriter:Robert Guédiguian
  • Cast:
    • Ariane Ascaride
    • Jean-Pierre Darroussin
    • Gérard Meylan
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