When you’re made to feel as a mistake all your life, you accept your life as the village simpleton. This is the case with Germain Chazes (Gérard Depardieu) – his mum thinks that he’s good-for-nothing and even his friends think that he’s just one bumbling dumb giant. When a lady called Margueritte (Gisèle Casadesus) sits on the same park bench with him, counting the pigeons, Germain learns about love and acceptance from a 95-year old lady. Through Margueritte, Germain is slowly acquainted with Albert Camus’ books and learns that he’s not too stupid to read and learn about difficult words.
Although the premise of the story seems very simple – which it is – the movie is a delight to watch. It is unashamedly sentimental without being weepy, Depardieu’s Chasez is somebody who still carries his dignity even though he knows that he’s not the smartest man around and that people make fun of him. He is a man who wears his heart on his sleeves, despite the names that others heap on him or what other people think of him. Casadesus portrays Margueritte very charmingly as well – as a lady who has gone through a lot in her life and still holds her head up high, even when macular degeneration and death are waiting around the corner. There is great chemistry when Depardieu and Casadesus share the screen together.
My Afternoons with Margueritte makes me appreciate the power of books and imagination and finding wonders through words that are strung together to convey a place in time, an event or just to describe some inner feelings. It also makes me want to pick up a book and start reading again – for pleasure – and not just because I have to read a journal article or a book for my study. It also confirms that there is deep wisdom in the lives of our elders – if only we would find time to pause from our daily madness and hear their stories. The movie also makes me wish I had a better proficiency in french – when Margueritte reads the passages from Camus’ works, I can’t help thinking that I have missed the real beauty of the original words – and not the redigested version in English. Words can be so powerful and wonderful in their original form.
My Afternoons with Margueritte will be released in the coming weeks, and I would strongly recommend this movie to you. There is great pleasure in simple things.