Les Souvenirs (Memories)

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Les Souvenirs/Photo courtesy of PR
Les Souvenirs/Photo courtesy of PR

Jean Paul Rouve’s Les Souvenirs (Memories) focuses on family, relationships, and life’s changes. Summer with its inevitable vacation is always the season for grandparents and grandchildren, a relationship that offers pure pleasure, without the responsibilities of parenting. Grandparents are the ones who indulge and do all the fun things. How does that relationship develop when the grandchildren are grown up and the grandparents are older and more frail?

Les Souvenirs/Photo courtesy of PR
Les Souvenirs/Photo courtesy of PR

One of the loveliest aspects of this film is the relationship between 80-something Madeleine Esnart (Annie Cordy), a woman in her 80s, and her 20-something grandson Romain (Mathieu Spinosi). Both are at turning points in their lives. Madeleine, recently widowed, finds herself alone after many years, and while she would prefer to remain solitary and independent, her three sons have other thoughts on the matter. Romain has graduated from university, where he studied Literature, and is in the process of figuring out the rest of life – finding a job, finding a girl, finding his sense of purpose.

Les Souvenirs/Photo courtesy of PR
Les Souvenirs/Photo courtesy of PR

They aren’t the only ones coping with changes and transitions: Michel (Michel Blanc), Romain’s father has just retired, and while he flounders, confused about how to carry on with the rest of life, his wife Nathalie (Chantal Lauby) must figure out how to carry on with him. Yet while Michel and his brothers, despite their love for their mother, are mostly preoccupied with their sense of responsibility, Romain – in true grandchild fashion – sees things differently. For Romain, Madeleine is not a problem to be figured out, she is still his beloved grandmother, the same person she always was, just older. The scenes between Romain and Madeleine are full of humor, love and warmth.

Les Souvenirs/Photo courtesy of PR
Les Souvenirs/Photo courtesy of PR

There is an element of the predictable and the sentimental in the film, which the humor helps balance. Annie Cordy brings a wonderful presence, dignity and simplicity to her portrayal of Madeleine, and Spinosi gives Romain an endearing sense of lightness. Indeed, the entire cast delivers solid performances, and the brief cameo of a tour guide in Normandy provides one of the film’s funniest moments.

Les Souvenirs (Memories) (France, 92 min, 2015)

Directed by Jean-Paul Rouve; Screenplay: Jean-Paul Rouve and David Foenkinos; Cast: Annie Cordy, Michel Blanc, Mathieu Spinosi, Chantal Lauby. French with Hebrew and English subtitles.