[Critique] “A beautiful race”: A “road movie” through space and time

[Critique] “A beautiful race”: A “road movie” through space and time

It was only a small fall, but she put her finger in the gears and now she has no choice. Madeleine, 92 years old, good foot good eye, but not good enough in the opinion of doctors, is forced to leave to live in the French equivalent of a CHSLD at the other end of Paris. And it is Charles, an indebted taxi driver, who will take her, attracted by a juicy race. While criss-crossing the city, Madeleine recalls the milestones of her life and submits an incongruous request to the driver: to go back to the key places in her life.

We hadn’t seen them together since they played the son and his mother “ch’nordistes”: Dany Boon and Line Renaud finally meet 15 long years later Welcome to the Ch’tis and five years later The little family, and the chemistry between the two is intact. In A great race, the two performers give body and heart to this unexpected rapprochement between two generations and two individuals emptied of their humanity by society. He is little more than a tool for his clients as she flees a bleak future through her memories. If we say that old age is a shipwreck, it is in any case how the character of Madeleine feels it at the idea of ​​having to move into a CHSLD. Line Renaud’s extraordinary blue eyes sparkle as if she were there at the evocation of her character’s youth. Boon and Renaud give their best under the direction of Christian Carion. The director had already staged Dany Boon in his historical film Merry Christmaswhich had earned the actor and comedian, then in need of recognition from the profession, a nomination for the César for best actor in a supporting role.

The music at work

The filmmaker manages to mix two genres with tact and makes us navigate in cruise mode between the road movie through the streets of Paris and period films. This one admirably rehumanizes a commemorative plaque with a simple tear running down Line Renaud’s face. And without the slightest jolt, there he is, the next minute plunging us into a popular ball on the arm of a GI in 1944. In constant transition between past and present, the director plays the soundtrack of the film from ankle laborer to laborer. The music delicately slides the spectator from one era to another and even creates from time to time a real nostalgic magic with a taste of regret. One thinks in particular of the first appearance of the character of Ray who emerges from the light on AtLast of Etta James, as Rita Hayworth would have appeared in her heyday. For a bit, Carion would almost succeed in making us regret a time that we did not know.

Had it not been for the few twists in the story, dramatic, even extreme. The screenplay that Carion co-signs manages to provide a few surprises, before falling into a predictable ending from which we hoped for better. More than the adventures that marked Madeleine’s life, we come out of the room with above all in mind the indictment made by A great race against these places of death where we park our elders, telling ourselves that it is for their good in order to clear our conscience.

A great race


Dramatic comedy by Christian Carion. With Dany Boon, Line Renaud, Alice Isaaz and Jérémie Laheurte. France, 2023, 91 minutes. Indoors.

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