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Set in a quaintly provincial town in France, Jean Becker’s My Afternoons With Marguerite explores the power of literature and friendship. One of the most charming films I have seen in years, Germain (Gerard Depardieu) plays an nearly illiterate peasant who bonds with the elderly Marguerite (Gisele Casadesus) after he finds her reading excerpts from novels aloud in the park.
Depardieu, in his 50′s, lives in his trailer on land owned by his unloving mother (Claire Maurier) and is mocked by his own friends for his ignorance. Thus, when he stumbles upon Marguerite in the park one day, his curiosity gets the better of him. They become friends, and, realizing he is not so ignorant after all, feels enriched by the magical tales he has been left out of for so long. However, despite her love for reading, at 95, she is losing her sight. Germain overcomes his inabilities and learns how to read so that they both may be able to rejoice in the joy of learning.
The sunny depiction of the French working class reflect an attitude seen in many areas of France – joie de vivre, a comfort in just living. Of course, most people who visit Paris do not grasp this, but taking a tour of the smaller regions opens one’s eyes. Healthcare is free to those in need, the work week is never longer than 36 hours, 2 hour lunch breaks abound, Sundays are always quiet and leisurely, and wine is a necessity at dinner. What more could one want in life?
Overall, this charming and engaging film warms your heart and is a must-see for those who like a smile on their face.