Monday, August 8, 2016
Les Cowboys 
LaCroix.fr (C. Renou-Nativel) review*
LaVoixduNord.fr (PHL) review*
aVoir-aLire.com (J. Godinot) review*
Critikat.com (M. Pokée) review*
APUM.com (I. Navarro) review*
Cine Para Leer (F.M. Benevent) review*
Slant Magazine (S. MacFarlane) review
Way Too Indie (C.J. Prince) review
Les Cowboys  [IMDb] [AC.fr]* (directed by Thomas Bidegain [IMDb] [AC.fr]*, screenplay by Thomas Bidegain [IMDb] [AC.fr]* and Noé Debré [IMDb] [AC.fr]*, original idea by Thomas Bidegain [IMDb] [AC.fr]* and Laurent Abitbol [IMDb]) is a thoughtful indie-style piece about a quite random French family "from the Provinces" (from somewhere in rural south-western France at the foothills of the Alps) whose parents, the father Alain especially (played wonderfully / poignantly throughout by François Damiens [IMDb] [AC.fr]*) just happened to have a thing for American country western music and its lifestyle. The film _closed_ the recent 2016 Chicago French Film Festival organized annually by the French Diplomatic Mission to the United States and held since its beginning at the Music Box Theater on Chicago's North Side.
Now it may seem somewhat surprising that a film about "a quite random French family from the countryside that happened to have a thing for American country music / its lifestyle" could then be characterized as _thoughtful_ / _poignant_. My comment here is not intended to be a "knock" of American CW music (I like / love American CW music and have a Czech nephew back in Prague who's an enormous fan of the "tremp" lifestyle). I just wish to note here that the "random French family from the countryside's" taste here is an _interesting_ and even _poignant_ FLOURISH that informs the rest of the story. But THE STORY _very quickly_ and _radically_ GOES ELSEWHERE.
For we are introduced to Alain and his family -- wife Nicole (played by Agathe Dronne [IMDb] [AC.fr]*, 16 y.o. daughter Kelly (played by Iliana Zabeth [IMDb] [AC.fr]*) and son Kid (played as a 13 year old by Maxim Driesen [IMDb] [AC.fr]* and later by Finnegan Oldfield [IMDb] [AC.fr]*) -- beginning a random late summer / early autumn day (in apparently 1994) coming to a lakeside Country Western jamboree being held somewhere in the foothills of the Alps. They're all dressed in cowboy hats and otherwise Western garb. They spend the day eating barbecue, watching a few carnival style rodeo events, dancing to CW music -- Alain, even straps on a guitar at one point and plays a poignant CW song "Tennessee Waltz" on stage -- and ... at the end of the day, Alain's wife Nicole starts asking "has anyone seen Kelly?"
What happened to Kelly? Well, sometime during that seemingly innocuous / random "family outing" SHE _ditched the family_ and ... ran-off with her boyfriend named Ahmed (about whom neither Alain nor Nicole had even known about). They find-out about him only in the hours / day that follow(s), as they start going through Kelly's stuff at home, in preparation to going to the police ...
And the two (Ahmed is apparently 18) simply vanish ... Not even Ahmed's parents (played by Djemel Barek [IMDb] [AC.fr]* and Leila Saadali [IMDb] [AC.fr]*) know where they disappeared to though they fear the worst ... Ahmed, his dad (who ran a random automechanics' garage at the edge of town) confesses, appeared to have had some radical Muslim tendencies (tendencies that he / the rest of the family disagreed with). But now the two -- Ahmed and Kelly -- were gone and Ahmed's own parents tell Alain and his then 13 year old son that they honestly could have disappeared to anywhere.
THE REST OF THE FILM IS ABOUT ALAIN and his SON "KID" (who as the film progresses, grows-up) LOOKING for Kelly and Ahmed ... in Antwerp, in Berlin, in Yemen, back in Marsailles, even, by then early 20-something "Kid" as a young "volunteer doctor" for Doctors without Borders, post-9/11, in Pakistan.
And as the years go by, life / history, both big and small, goes on" -- "stuff", important "stuff" happens, of course, in Alain's own family as does other important "stuff" in the world as well (notably 9/11 as well as the subsequent Madrid and London bombings).
Through it all, Kelly's mom, Nicole, gets _occasional_ word (a letter every couple of years, postmarked from truly random locations) from her daughter ... informing her of events in Kelly's life (now with a random Muslim name), notably that Kelly's come to have a number of children of her own (by Ahmed), but obviously these children would never know their French grandparents. Kelly, for her part, never got word of ANYTHING that's happened to her birth family ... because, well, she never left an address in her letters, and the very occasional letters were again seemingly sent from random cities / countries across Europe / the Middle East. (Ahmed's father notes at one point that "at least your daughter writes ... we haven't heard _anything_ from our son since he left us").
How does it end? I'm not going to say ... but the film becomes a contemporary French update of the classic American "Western" The Searchers  [wikip] [IMDb]. As such it makes for an excellent if often quite sad / poignant (and _perhaps_ very French ...) story ...
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