The House by the Sea review – melancholy family drama

Veteran French director Robert Guédiguian achieves moments of beauty in an occasionally heavy-handed film

Marseille-based director Robert Guédiguian is a stalwart of Gallic socialist cinema. Together with his repertory group of regular collaborators, including Ariane Ascaride, Jean-Pierre Darroussin and Gérard Meylan, Guédiguian has unshowily explored the stories of working-class southern France for more than three decades. Set in a seaside town, his latest uses the ill health of a father to explore family tensions, gentrification and the migrant crisis. It’s well-meaning and the naturalistic performances are persuasive. But there’s a certain rheumatic stiffness to the writing, which treads rather heavily as it negotiates themes that would benefit from a lighter step. Guédiguian uses clips from one of his earlier films, Ki Lo Sa?, to provide flashback. It’s a striking contrast – there’s a breezy fizz to that film that is, understandably, absent in this muted account of a sadder time. But this melancholy is, occasionally, used with real elegance, in particular, in a wrenchingly poignant scene that unites the small community following an unexpected double tragedy.

Watch a trailer for The House by the Sea.

Contributor

Wendy Ide

The GuardianTramp

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