Film Review: The Student and Mr Henri (L’Etudiante et Monsieur Henri)

Not everything in life has to be original. There is great pleasure in watching something that takes a tried and tested trope (or two) and, rather than subverting it without success, has a go at seeing how far they can run with it.  And so we have, surfacing on Amazon Prime, The Student and Mr Henri in which the paths of a young, idealistic student and an elderly curmudgeon cross. Will they find that what unites them is greater than what separates them? Oh, come on.

So, yes, that’s a bit trite and predictable.  However, Claude Brasseur has tremendous fun, and nearly all of the best lines, as cranky landlord Mr Henri whose exasperation at his son’s choice of wife leads him to suggest, in ways that would seem far less pleasant if it wasn’t explained via subtitled French, that his new, nubile lodger, Constance (Noemie Schmidt) should, y’know, distract him and make him re-evaluate his life. Constance is trying to prove to her disapproving provincial parents that her life in Paris is a success, despite the exam failures. And Mr Henri’s son, Paul, is unsuccessfully fending off a mid-life crisis. He even shows up in a leather jacket at one point. And then his wife, Valerie (who also gets some very good lines) is a stickler who hides her feelings behind a mask of ‘just so’ conformity.

Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves and it’s a bit like a Bill Forsyth film in that even the darkest observations are wrapped in a lovely humanistic warmth.  For all its wryness in looking at modern life, this is a view of the world which wants people to be quirky and find themselves by being ever-so-slightly out of the depth. It’s also pretty funny in parts, which helps.

So whilst definitely being nothing earth shattering this is a film which, should you have the opportunity, will pass an enjoyable enough couple of hours. And, compared to a lot of films out there, that’s not a bad recommendation at all.

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