The House by the Sea
A dying man is approaching his final days at his villa in a coastal village near Marseille. This triggers a reunion between his children, who reflect on the community spirit and ideals their father promoted in his prime. It is these ideals that are tested when a group of boat people wash up on the shore. Director Robert Guédiguian, who also penned the script, offers several story strands in addition as new love blossoms, old love is rekindled and family and friendships are embraced.
Pierre Milon’s cinematography bathes us in nostalgia and the coastal village, enriched in natural beauty but hiding a dark underbelly, feels like a character in its own right. As the waves ebb and flow in the background for much of the film, we seamlessly shift between the past and the present. The idyllic yet somewhat melancholic setting only emphasises the idea of both the world itself entering a period of unrelenting change as well as the transitions being experienced by the sibling characters as they grow aware of time passing.
The acting is of particular note with each and every member of the cast delivering such authentic portrayals that at times we really do feel like we are in the room with them as a fly on the wall. Ariane Ascaride as the elusive actress returning from Paris offers a particularly poignant performance as she morphs from distant and offish to embracing a new romance and ultimately reconnecting with the family she left behind. Ascaride is complemented well by Jean-Pierre Darroussin’s delicately humorous Joseph. Gérard Meylan, as the brother who stayed behind to run the struggling family restaurant, exudes the weight of the burden he took on with a carefully refined and nuanced performance. We believe these three are related and their chemistry together only adds another dimension to the film.
The House by the Sea is certainly one to be visited not only for its stunning scenery and careful, sensitive and honest acting and direction but because it manages to address key controversial issues about immigration without ever preaching too overtly. The final scenes involving the refugee children are somewhat haunting but we also leave with a sense of hope and optimism that there is good in the world, peace is possible and change is not necessarily a bad thing.
The House by the Sea is released in select cinemas on 11th January 2019.
Watch the trailer for The House by the Sea here: