I've watched "My Afternoons with Margueritte" a couple of times now, it has that sort of enchanting quality which means that even when you know what happens it is still pleasant to watch. But yet I am still not entirely sure how I feel about this story of unusual friendship between a 95 year old woman and a 60 something semi-illiterate worker who meet in a park and bond. Maybe I have higher expectations after reading some glowing reviews, maybe GÃ©rard Depardieu's expanding waistline distracted too much or the believability was stretched by his character having a much younger and attractive girlfriend. But there was something which just prevented me from completely being smitten with "My Afternoons with Margueritte" despite being charmed by GisÃ¨le Casadesus.
As a child Germain Chazes was ridiculed in class by a nasty teacher as he struggled with reading and his mother made things no better as she blamed him for everything. It means now as a grown man Germain lives life simply, doing various jobs, tending to his garden and drinking with friends whilst visiting the pigeons in the park to have his lunch. It is whilst there that he comes across the elderly Margueritte who like Germain enjoys watching the pigeons whilst she reads her books which she offers to read to him. So starts a friendship as through Margueritte Germain starts to learn things from the books she reads and encourages him to try reading again despite his friends at the bar ridiculing him when he uses the words he has learned in a wrong way.
So "My Afternoons with Margueritte" is a very simple little movie about a man who whilst not stupid is uneducated becoming friends with a slight, elderly woman who reads to him and treats him in a way that no other does, with kindness. As such we watch as this friendship between the two blossoms as Germain loves Margueritte in a special way, causing comical chaos with his younger girlfriend and also chaos when his friends mock him for his incorrect use of words. That is it with the exception of what feels like a Hollywood ending, one which in some ways is out of place but in others is enjoyable.
Now all of this is pleasant, charming, touching and often witty which is exactly what I was expecting but it has a problem and it is a problem which shouldn't be. That problem is GÃ©rard Depardieu and his waistline which looked like it was rivalling Marlon Brando at his heaviest. The thing is an actor's stomach shouldn't be a stumbling block but not only does it often dominate a scene but then we have the fact that Germain is in a relationship with Annette who is both pretty and half his age and the pair do not look right together. What is most annoying is that Depardieu delivers a lovely performance, creating this gentle giant character which allows us warm to him but because there are these issues it spoils it.
What doesn't spoil things is the wonderful GisÃ¨le Casadesus as Margueritte, an actress whose first recorded movie credit is back in 1934 when she was 20, do the maths you will be astonished. Casadesus is not only the perfect age for the role of this sweet old woman but she is perfect at delivering the mix of fun and caring which goes together to make her such an endearing woman with a wonderful mischievous side when it comes to the meaning of words.
What this all boils down to is that "My Afternoons with Margueritte" is a charming little movie which is pleasant enough that you would happily watch it again. But despite an expectedly good performance from GÃ©rard Depardieu and a wonderful performance from GisÃ¨le Casadesus there are certain things which become a stumbling block.