Yves Robert's MY MOTHER'S CASTLE picks up at the exact moment--two young boys shivering in a mountain cave inhabited by a hoot owl--where MY FATHER'S GLORY left off. While the sequel isn't quite the equal of the original installment, it is a sheer delight, nonetheless.
As the film opens, pre-teen Marcel (Julien Ciamaca) is still enjoying his summer in the mountains with his newfound friend, the shepherd boy Lili (Joris Molinas). Grim reality sets in when Marcel returns from the mountain top to be reminded by his father Joseph (Philippe Caubere), a schoolteacher
in Marseilles, and his exquisitely beautiful mother, Augustine (Natalie Roussel), that it's time to return to town and for him to resume his studies at school. Marcel's only consolation is his father's promise that the family will return to the mountains at every available opportunity, including
the various yearly holidays and most weekends, in addition to the long summer holiday.
This arrangement works reasonably well, except for one thing. Looming in the direct path between town and their mountain retreat is a large area of secluded estates, all of which are surrounded by high fences, gates and other barricades. If only something could be done to enable the family to
sneak across this forbidden labyrinth undetected, since getting caught could mean a fine, a jail sentence--or both. If they could bring this off, they'd save nearly a day in travel time each way--to say nothing of the extra walking the long way around requires. Luckily, there's a canal that runs
through the middle of these estates and Bouzigue (Philippe Uchan), a sly canal spiker, conspires with Joseph to smuggle the brood through this high-risk zone. The idea is to stay clear of the estates and remain as close as possible to the canal. The first time through is a success, as is the
return trip and a number of trips thereafter. Then a false sense of confidence sets in and at that point the odds catch up with the Pagnol family. Tragedy strikes in the form of a nasty and autocratic old estate guard (Jean Carmet) who locks the gates on the family, making any retreat impossible.
MY MOTHER'S CASTLE has a fascinating epilogue, set more than a decade later, in which--thanks to the off-screen voice of the aged Marcel--the very same estate where the guard was once so mean to Marcel and his family, it is explained, is now owned by the adult Marcel, who has dedicated it to his
late mother and, subsequently, turned it into a motion picture studio where he would later film his classic FANNY trilogy of the 1930s.
Considered as a single entity, MY MOTHER'S CASTLE and MY FATHER'S GLORY comprise a near masterpiece. Judged separately, the latter stands on its own much more effectively than the former. While Robert and screenwriter Lucette Andrei fail to some extent in both pictures to capture all the small
ironies and earthy wisdom contained in Pagnol's childhood memoirs, MY FATHER'S GLORY is so impressively rich in detail and in its depiction of subtle behavioral patterns and amusing incidents that the lack of plot, suspense or intense conflict isn't as obvious as in MY MOTHER'S CASTLE.
One sequence--the family's decision to trespass through a number of wealthy estates in order to have more time in the country--goes on for much too long, while another sequence, involving 11-year-old Marcel's rather foolish escapades with Isabelle (Julie Timmerman), a spoiled rich girl who makes
an utter ass out of Marcel, to his father's chagrin, seems out of place with the mood and atmosphere of the rest of the film. For the most part, however, Robert and Andrei have done a remarkable job, especially in capturing the very essence of a happy, well-adjusted family who lived life to the
fullest. (Adult situations.)
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- Released: 1990
- Rating: PG
- Review: Yves Robert's MY MOTHER'S CASTLE picks up at the exact moment--two young boys shivering in a mountain cave inhabited by a hoot owl--where MY FATHER'S GLORY left off. While the sequel isn't quite the equal of the original installment, it is a sheer delight,… (more)