Microbe and Gasoline

October 11, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Posted in 2016 | Leave a comment
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After almost a month of not seeing anything (!), I have returned on a strong note. This lovely French film is just the light fare one needs during this heavy season. It tells the story of two misfit 14 year olds, Daniel and Theo, who take themselves on a grand adventure during their summer break. Daniel has been nicknamed “Microbe” by his peers, because he is so small for his age and Theo is nicknamed “Gasoline” because he smells like the motors he is always working on. One has an anxious and smothering mother and the other has a distant one. They bond over their sense of alienation and decide to head off into the furthest reaches of France in a bizarre house-car they built. The film is mostly goofy fun, with an occasional sprinkle of sentiment. Writer and director Michel Gondry is probably best known for “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” but also made “The Science of Sleep” and the truly amazing “The We and the I” (you can see my review here). He takes a much lighter approach here, focusing on the joy of these boys’ adventures together and is able to draw wonderful performances out of the two, inexperienced leads (Ange Dargent and Théophile Baquet), in part because he seems to be letting them play themselves. This is meant to be simple, playful fun and almost every moment is filled with a lightness and a joy (even the difficult moments were never that dark and passed fairly quickly). That said, the film does have a beautifully bittersweet ending that an American film would never dare. It may feel tonally wrong to some but I felt like it made for the perfect final moments, as reality crept back into these boys’ summer of fantasy. This is a story about the confusion of young adolescence, of all the insecurity and self-doubt that comes with growing up. Gondry himself grew up in Versailles, which is where the boys live in the film, and he brings an honesty to the story that suggests he was tapping into his own experiences. The fact that he can be honest about the challenges of youth and still make a film so full of laughter, is a testament to his abilities as a storyteller.  This is truly just a lovely film that made me laugh more times than I would have thought it could.

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