Same Old Merde 

The Grocer's Son: A Coming-of-Age Story—In French!

Antoine Sforza is a loser. Antoine (played by Nicolas Cazalé) lives in a crappy apartment filled with cardboard boxes, he's a lousy waiter, and he pines for his ambivalent neighbor Claire (the charming Clotilde Hesme). One day, Antoine's estranged father—a grocer from a small town somewhere in France—suffers a heart attack, leaving him unable to man his store and grocery van. So Antoine, having moved to Paris 10 years earlier for dubious reasons, begrudgingly agrees to return to his (literally) provincial hometown to help run the family business. He convinces Claire, who is stressed about her schoolwork and needs a change of scenery, to come along.

Antoine spends his days riding around in a van and selling goods to really old people, and basically the rest of the movie goes like this: No one in town likes Antoine, Claire ingratiates herself to Antoine's family and the geriatric townsfolk, Antoine makes a dumb selfish mistake, Claire leaves, the old people start liking Antoine and vice versa, Antoine and his dad get over their issues, and by the end everything is wrapped up a little too neatly.

What saves The Grocer's Son from being a generic movie about a man-child growing up is its Frenchness: Writer/director Eric Guirado allows the film to take its time, making Antoine's evolution into a functional adult believable. The cinematography is simple yet beautiful, and even the littlest acts—like selling canned peas—permeate angst. There are also lines like, "Your avocados are hard. Are they for playing boules?" and a scene in which Antoine fusses over exact change, an act as typically French as riding a bicycle while eating a baguette. But despite its subtlety and beauty, The Grocer's Son is ultimately unsatisfying. It's like a comfortable meal: It might be delicious, but it's one I've tasted 100 times before.

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