(director/writer: Régis Roinsard; screenwriters: based on the novel by Olivier Bourdeaut/Romain Compingt; cinematographer: G Schiffman; editor: Loïc Lallemand; music: Clare & Oliver Manchon; cast: Romain Duris (George), Virginie Efira (Camille), Grégory Gadebois (Charles), Marie Fontannaz (La femme au grand chignon),  Ellisa Maillot (Epouse cocktail Mondain), Solan Machado Graner (Young Gary), Milo Machado Graner (Gary); Runtime: 124; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Olivier Delbosc/Jean-Pierre Guerin; Blue Fox/Studio Canal; 2022-France/Belgium-in French with English subtitles)

“What it fumbles is in relating a free spirit to someone who is mentally ill.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

French filmmaker Régis Roinsard (“Populaire”/”The Translators”) bases the eccentric romantic drama on the best selling 2016 French novel by Olivier Bourdeaut called En Attendant Bojangles. Roinsard co-writes it with Romain Compingt. It tells of how marching to a different tune in society often leads to bad results. The film is told through an unnamed child somehow magically using the journal of his father.

It’s set in Paris in the 1960s, telling about a pair of lovers, George (Romain Duris) and Camille (Virginie Efira), and their cute and imaginative young son Gary (Solan Machado Graner). Their story will turn tragic after the couple leads a hedonistic life in Paris. Life for them is filled with night-time gatherings of friends, heavy drinking and playing every evening their favorite song of Mr. Bojangles. It’s a life consumed by the family’s love for each other.

The couple met at a swanky cocktail party in the French Riviera in 1958. He’s a rakish liar with charm, a mechanic posing as a socialite, and she is someone who acts spontaneous but has a traumatic past. We are briefed about her by their mutual friend Charles (Gregory Gadebois).

Living together in Paris, the song in the title as sung by Nina Simone, as referenced in the novel, but here it uses the version by New Zealand singer Marlon Williams. Gary and his father spend their time being delightfully held hostage by Camille’s increasingly dark mood swings, as she’s mentally ill and though trying to fight off these dark spells but can’t. When in financial trouble and their son now 10, they slip away to a castle in Spain that ends for them in a melancholic resolution due to Camille’s mental illness.

Filmed in exotic locales, the film looks great. Effira’s performance is superb. Love is viewed as a sort of risky and corny experience that keeps us romantics rooting for the lovebirds. But what it fumbles is in relating a free spirit to someone who is mentally ill–that just doesn’t add up, as the film’s second half loses its fun as its dark reality takes over and the film becomes clunky and a chore to watch.