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Home (cover) > Reel Life (movie section) > Film Reviews

A Reel Life film section

Issue: Summer 2015-6

The Bélier Family (La Famille Bélier) (2014) movie review

Comedy Magic

The Bélier Family is a genuinely wonderful comedy drama from French director éric Lartigau. The core magic of The Bélier Family is the credibility and the engaging nature of the rural French family it follows.

This is achieved from the first few minutes of the movie; there is no sense that the actors are 'playing roles' or the scriptwriters 'setting a scene'. This entirely comes down to The Bélier Family's fabulous script and brilliant acting performances.

The movie depicts a dairy farming family in a small French village. Three members of the Bélier family - the father Rodolphe (Francois Damiens), mother Gigi (Karin Viard) and their 13 year-old son Quentin (Luca Gelberg) - are deaf. Only their 16-year old daughter, Paula (Louane Emera), has hearing.

movie poster, The Bélier Family (La Famille Bélier), Festivale film review; 220x303

Movie poster, The Bélier Family (La Famille Bélier)

On a small dairy farm, this makes for some particularly comic situations. But the comedy, which runs thick and fast, is the familiar comedy of any family trying to get along and 'get stuff done'. There are huge laughs to be had from Rodolphe and Gigi's particularly healthy sex life; their insensitivity to sound in general; and Rodolphe's distorted views on world politics.

Interwoven with this rich comedy, is drama, primarily focussed on the daughter, Gigi. The drama in her life is that typical of any 16-year old; issues surrounding puberty, new love, family responsibilities and so on. Her family role as the 'link' between the hearing and non-hearing worlds amplifies the pressure of her family responsibilities. Central to the drama is Paula's discovery of her ability to sing, and her love of music. This is found through her high school's new music teacher, the disgruntled M. Thomasson (éric Elmosino), who has been sent to the rural centre from Paris to "teach fish fingers how to sing". Two of these 'fish fingers' turn out to be wonderful singers: Paula, and her love interest Gabriel (Ilian Bergala). Both are presented with the opportunity to sit a scholarship to study singing in Paris. Singing, of course, is a medium that Paula's family has no understanding or appreciation of.

The Bélier Family has come under some criticism from the European deaf community for not engaging deaf actors to play the key roles, and for insinuating that a deaf family places pressure on its hearing 'links' for support. I think these arguments miss the point of this movie and its important message. The Bélier Family is not about deafness or hearing disability per se. It powerfully shows that any family - indeed, any human relationship - has an inherent dynamism. People change; children are not 'made in the parents' mould'. Perhaps the movie's most touching scene is when Gigi weeps at the news of Paula's Parisian aspirations, and admits the anxiety and grief she felt when she gave birth to a hearing baby. It is a powerful admission that will strike a chord with many parents.

The Bélier Family is a must see for 2015/2016.

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by Alan Alderson
Australian release 26 December 2015
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Just the facts:

Title: The Bélier Family (La Famille Bélier) (2014)
Written by: Victor Bedos, Stanislas Carré de Malberg, Thomas Bidegain, éric Lartigau
Directed by: éric Lartigau
Running time: 105 mins

The Players: Karin Viard, Francois Damiens, éric Elmosnino, Louane Emera

Official website:
IMDb entry

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