Austin Film Festival 2021

Greetings again from the darkness. After watching the trailer, I settled in for what I expected to be a traditional French farce, always a welcome relief from the usual festival heaviness. While I can’t say the trailer is misleading – all of the scenes are present in the movie – it’s just that writer-director Stevan Lee Mraovitch has delivered more of a dark comedy with a message than a laugh-a-minute joy ride in his feature film debut.

Oumar Diaw (brilliantly) stars as Frederic, a technology installer who works for a boss that never hesitates to take advantage of Fred’s natural passivity. Set to take his lovely wife Fanny (Donia Eden) and young son Max (Swann Nguma-Torre) on the first family vacation in years, Fred runs into money issues thanks to a broken promise from his boss. Rather than come clean and disappoint his wife, Fred cuts a deal with his childhood friend Jean-Luc (Benjamin Garnier) who runs a luxury resort in the area where they all grew up together. Frederic agrees to work for Jean-Luc in exchange for the price of a room.

It becomes apparent to us (not to Fred) that Jean-Luc’s ulterior motives include winning back the girl of his dreams … Fanny. So the evil Jean-Luc initiates an elaborate plan, not for world domination, but to keep Fred occupied with increasingly outrageous pranks, so that Fanny will be forced to spend time with Jean-Luc. The sabotage of a relationship is a bit painful to watch because we really like Frederic, and can’t much stand the sight of Jean-Luc.

There are some funny gags here, with the best being “Frozen Surfer” during yoga. “Digital nomad” becomes a nice catchphrase for those in today’s generation who carry little interest in excelling at an occupation. Vacation-gone-wrong movies are plentiful, but here it serves as the foundation for a story about relationships, friendship, selfishness, and self-worth. Filmed in the gorgeous countryside and beaches of the South of France, director Mraovitch has made quite an impact with his first film.


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