Movie: Regardless of our personal beliefs and superstitions, religious customs play a part in all our lives. Whether it's from weddings, passage of rites, weekly services, or other traditions, such customs impact us all at some point in our lives. How we embrace or deny those customs says a lot about who we are. I stumbled across a movie dealing with such issues recently, Dad On The Run, and it provided some warm insights into human nature.
The movie takes a look at a guy, Jonas Kolka, who finds out he must bury the foreskin of his new baby to fulfill a religious tradition. Of course he lets it go until he must find an appropriate place at the last minute and that fuels his madcap adventure as he races about town, as much to bury the small piece of flesh as to avoid a group of gangsters that are chasing him because of a misunderstanding. The movie also uses a visit by the Pope to Paris in a social commentary adding to the look at religion (Jonas is Jewish) via a female stranger on a quest of her own. Will he succeed in his mission or will he fail generations of ancestors by messing up?
I liked the light hearted humor of the circumstances. Whether it's a van that breaks down, an old flame that he rejects (contrary to her husband's belief), or several dozen other circumstances the director throws at us, seeing Jonas struggle with a religion that he barely knows, only because he wants to do right by his newborn baby and family traditions, was a pleasant surprise. The underlying themes presented in this vein of thought revolve around taking a look at ancient customs in modern day settings which give even a guy like me pause for thought. That they weren't portrayed in the usual heavy-handed way just made them that much more enjoyable. Some of the humor was physical (the French like physical comedy) but there was also a lot of verbal play and subtle humor (the look the baby gives at one point was priceless).
The performance by Clement Sibony as Jonas was top notch but Rona Hartner, in a role that'd have been perfect for Madonna in her heyday, was also solid. Such was the case with the supporting cast too. The director and his wife (and a friend) wrote the screenplay based on thoughts he had when he was confronted by a circumstance in his own life and movies that spring from such events are often warmer and more personal because of it.
I'm not always a big fan of French comedies since their sense of humor tends to be somewhat weak but this was one I've watched twice and found new things to laugh at each time. That it also gives you something to think about is just icing on the cake. It's not a big budget release but an intimate look at customs told in a manner that allows for plenty of personal interpretation of what's happening as well as what should happen. By taking a close look at a seemingly insignificant custom that I bet most of us know nothing about, let Desarthe explore much more territory than had he poked around a more popular or widely acknowledged tradition. Based on the fun I've had watching it, I rate this one as Recommended.
Picture: The picture was presented in 1.78:1 ratio widescreen color. The colors were sometimes a bit too saturated with the fleshtones suffering a bit and the sharpness wasn't always great but it was okay for a low budget film made in a third world country.
Sound: The sound was presented in stereo French with English subtitles. The vocals were clear and the minimalist score was non-obtrusive. It was plain but certainly contributed to the show.
Extras: The best extra was an interview, in French with English subtitles, with the three writers (one of them was also the director). In the better part of 12 minutes, the threesome covered a lot of ground and fleshed out some of the more obscure points the movie made. There was also a director's profile which gave some biographical information on Director Dante Desarthe. Lastly, there were some trailers.
Final Thoughts: Obviously I liked the movie with it's close look at things most of us just take for granted. It had some rough edges and the technical aspects weren't as good as I prefer but with me, content is king and this movie certainly could be said to be one watched for content. The comedic aspects have all been seen a million times before but they were put in a larger context here that really worked for me. Check it out.