Seaside

This excellent film about one year in the life of a second-tier resort town on France's northern coast is better served by the title that actually appears onscreen: PEBBLES. The smooth black stones that cover the town's beach sustain many of its year-round residents — the pebble plant is the primary industry — but they're also the reason vacationers...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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This excellent film about one year in the life of a second-tier resort town on France's northern coast is better served by the title that actually appears onscreen: PEBBLES. The smooth black stones that cover the town's beach sustain many of its year-round residents — the pebble plant is the primary industry — but they're also the reason vacationers who prefer sandy beaches spend their summers elsewhere. This once select resort has lost some of its luster, and though some regulars, like Anne (Ludmila Mikael) and her family, return yearly for les grandes vacances, locals like Paul (Jonathan Zaccai) and his girlfriend Marie (Helene Fillieres) are having trouble making ends meet. During the summer, Paul works as a lifeguard; his winters are spent packing grocery bags at the local supermarket. Marie, meanwhile, sorts pebbles at the factory. Their precarious financial situation is aggravated by Paul's widowed mother, Rose (the wonderful Bulle Ogier), a compulsive gambler who's fed her husband's pension to the slot machines at the casino where Paul's sister works as a cocktail waitress. When Rose admits that she's also gambled away her house, Marie invites her to move into the rooms she shares with Paul, an intrusion that further strains their troubled relationship. Marie's deep-rooted discontent with life in this stiflingly small town has been rubbed awake by the reappearance of a childhood sweetheart, Anne's son Pierre (Jauris Casanova), now a well-known Paris fashion photographer, and his timid girlfriend, Lilas (Audrey Bonnet). Comparing what might have been with the reality of her drab life, Marie reconsiders the clumsy overtures made by her boss, Albert (Patrick Lizana), whose great-grandfather founded the pebble plant. His widowed mother, Odette (Liliane Rovere), once worked the sorting line with Rose before marrying her boss, Albert's father. The plant went bankrupt on Albert's watch and is now leased by an outside company, but Odette is sufficiently wealthy to help Rose out of her financial straits, if proud Rose would only let her. Divided into four chapters according to season and beautifully acted by all its female leads, director Julie Lopes-Curval's deeply thoughtful first feature explores the factors and forces, notably class difference, that determine the direction one's life takes. This seemingly placid community is slowly revealed to be a tight tangle of interpersonal relationships defined by that essential rift that divides those who summer at the beach and those who remain behind at season's end. (In French with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: This excellent film about one year in the life of a second-tier resort town on France's northern coast is better served by the title that actually appears onscreen: PEBBLES. The smooth black stones that cover the town's beach sustain many of its year-round… (more)

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