While it stands on its own, Jean de Florette (1986) can't help but feel like part of a larger, massive story. A tale of betrayal, lies, and hope, Jean de Florette paints a vivid portrait of life in the French countryside during the early part of the last century. Cesar (Yves Montand) and Ugolin (Daniel Auteuil) hatch a plan to take control of a rare spring on a neighboring property by helping to make life unbearable for Jean (Gérard Depardieu) who has recently inherited the land. While pretending to help former city slicker Jean in his dreams of living off his farming, Ugolin and Cesar hide the truth of the existence of the well, which they have plugged up, causing Jean to rely on unpredictable rains and a brutal hike to a different water source. As the months and years go by the treachery of Ugolin and Cesar causes heartbreak and tragedy for Jean, his wife Aimee, and their young daughter Manon.
The ending, however, feels very abrupt. The reason for this is that Jean de Florette is actually only part one, with Manon des Source telling the rest of the story. The films were released a few months apart, which already was a mistake. At 2 hours each they feel incomplete. By releasing them separately on barebones DVDs they are continuing to detract from the epic narrative.