First, please take a look at the trailer, so my comments will seem less cryptic.
The studio’s description does a rather poor job of highlighting what is wonderful about this film, for it isn’t the situation or the events that make this story great, in my view. However, perhaps we in North America need the focus on ‘what the film is about’:
MY AFTERNOONS WITH MARGUERITTE is the uplifting story of one of those chance encounters that can radically change the course of someone’s life. Germain (Gérard Depardieu) is a large and almost illiterate man in his fifties. He is unmarried and still lives with his mother with whom he has a fractious relationship.
Margueritte is a tiny, elderly woman with a passion for the written word. There’s 40 years and 200 pounds’ difference between them and only one thing in common, a shared fondness for pigeons. When Germain happens to sit beside her on a park bench and Margueritte reads extracts from her novels to him, an unlikely and unexpected friendship develops. Under Margueritte’s tutelage, Germain discovers a love of literature and with it, a wisdom which confounds his friends at the bistro who have always treated him like an idiot. As Margueritte begins to lose her eyesight, Germain sees an opportunity to use his love for this sweet and mischievous grandma to improve both his own life and hers.
I guess I should admit that Depardieu is one of those actors whose work I am drawn to: even his weakest performance is generally better than the best work of others. He is like De Niro or Streep, to me: some of their most stunning work occurs with roles or scripts that seem slight.
In My Afternoons, a film that focuses on a very few events and characters, Depardieu conveys information with small gestures, with the changes of the character’s gaze, and with the silences between words. As a film about reading, such silences provide counterpoints to the novels Margueritte shares with Germain.
Even the quality of light and the emphasis on open spaces, highlighted by the darkness of enclosed spaces, contributes to the effect of reflection that results from reading.
Perhaps it’s because of my new way of watching movies (about 15 minutes at a time; not by choice), but I’m drawn to the small moment, the eyes that move away, the light that changes ever so slightly within a scene. If so, maybe that will be ok.