WILL IT SNOW FOR CHRISTMAS? (aka: Y aura-t-il de la neige à Noël?)
(director/writer: Sandrine Veysset; screenwriter: Antoinette de Robien; cinematographer: Hélène Louvart; editor: Nelly Quettier; music: Henri Ancilotti; cast: Dominique Reymond (Mother), Daniel Duval (Father), Jessica Martinez, Alexandre Roger, Xavier Colonna, Fanny Rochetin, Flavie Chimenes, Jeremy Chaix and Guillaume Mathonnet (Children); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Humbert Balsan; New Yorker Films; 1996-France-in French with English subtitles)
“A bleak film that has a big heart.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The 30-year-old Sandrine Veysset’s debut as a writer-director in this unsentimental tale of rural life in the south of France, where a resilient and unforgettable long-suffering young mom (Dominique Reymond) raises alone a brood of seven illegitimate children living in a drafty stone farmhouse. The family is used by the cold-hearted tyrannical dad (Daniel Duval) as virtually slave labor for his vegetable farm, while he lives nearby in a comfortable estate with his real family. Dad appears at the farm only to have mom service him or be bossy around the kids, as mom for some inexplicable reason loves the bastard and for reasons of survival can’t change the hopeless situation. The impoverished children prosper through their mom’s unconditional love and in their own inventiveness, as they always manage to find fun things to do such as make toy sailboats out of potatoes and sail them along the farm’s irrigation ditches.
Filmed in closeup and offering all natural performances, it presents reality as if a documentary. We go through the summer and fall seasons showing the hardships of living in such a barren area–with the kids working full-time during the summer and in the fall attending school–and it ends on Christmas Eve with mom sharing with the kids once again the dream she had at 16 that told her how she would be both cursed and blessed to have seven children. When dad makes a play for the oldest daughter, mom puts her foot down and gives him the boot from her bed despite his threats to make life unbearable for them. Mom, becoming suicidal, only looks forward to Christmas and hopes it will snow on Christmas Eve and give her some renewed hope for the future as she reconnects with nature’s life cycle.
A truly remarkable austere film that makes the viewer feel the stress of manual labor and the harsh reality of life on the farm, as the mother, through a great nuanced performance by Reymond, makes the best of the bad hand dealt herby being the unwavering center of her children’s lives. A bleak film that has a big heart, that just tells it as it is without demonizing the bad dad or finding fault with mom’s decision making. In a non-judgmental way it’s a film of great integrity, authenticity, delicacy and dignity.
It won the Cesar for best debut film of 1996.
REVIEWED ON 8/6/2009 GRADE: A https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/