Taking Off (Le grand départ) explores the age old story of brotherly differences and how they fight to gain their father’s love. The story opens with Romain Gauthier (Pio Marmaï) – an ambitious, career-oriented younger brother of Luc (Jérémie Elkaïm) – a depressed author and screenwriter. Their father Georges (Eddy Mitchell) is separated from their mum Danielle (Chantal Lauby) but they always get together for Christmas dinner. Then Georges is diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. He’s increasingly forgetful and erratic which necessitates him moving into a nursing home. Through the whole ordeal, Romain learns the important things in life and that despite the differences between him and Luc, blood is truly thicker than water.
Although the movie has great potential, the director, Nicolas Mercier, seems indecisive about where he wants to bring the story. It starts almost like a drama-comedy, and then it toys with some romantic elements when Romain meets Serena, Luc’s friend and a dance instructor. The whole segment can easily be removed from the movie as it does not add anything and Romain’s fascination with Serena seems contrived. Romain also oscillates from being an ambitious, serious and dull career-minded guy and a complete tool who barfs in his goddaughter’s baptism and hits on his friend’s wife. It’s hard to sympathise with him as the moment you think you know him, he morphs into a different character altogether. Luc’s character on the other hand is under-utilised in the movie; the focus on Romain pushes Luc’s character into the sideline – which is a pity because I find him a more interesting character in the movie.
All in all, it is a good story and the movie still provides a very enjoyable viewing – I get to know Wagner’s Tannhäuser Overture! The delicate ending nearly compels me to give the movie a 5/6, but unfortunately the weaknesses of the movie still weighs it down. Taking Off is the first movie that I selected from this year’s Alliance Française French Film Festival. Four more French cinematic delights to see this year!