"It’s a slight change in direction, but it works well, elevating a otherwise somewhat mundane affair"
Opening with a scene in which an elderly man suffers a stroke in a seemingly idyllic location in the south of France, The House By The Sea is an uneven yet moving examination of human interaction beneath a beautiful surface.
The stroke serves as a catalyst for three siblings, Angela (Arianne Ascaride), Joseph (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) and Armand (Gererd Meylan), to come together in their father’s village and examine their own worth and what has, and will be, passed onto them.
Director Robert Guediguian uses this set up as a way of examining his native country as a whole, with institutionalised racism relevant amongst the natives and a fear of the threat of migrants present. This is in a somewhat deserted town where the money has dried up and the old world aesthetic being threatened by slight elements of industrialisation.
Although it’s well performed by the ensemble cast and makes good cinematic use of its location, initially the film does make big demands of the viewer. There is little to really draw the audience in and engage them with the story, partly due to the films understandably understated tone but equally due to the somewhat slow-burning nature of proceedings.
Yet there is a subplot brewing underneath involving the army searching for some missing refugees and in the films final act, this feeds smartly into the overarching plot. Characters initially drained of life find a pulse amongst the gloom of situation and having spent much of the film looking in, they look out and locate their humanity.
It’s a slight change in direction, but it works well, elevating a otherwise somewhat mundane affair to create a moving finale.