Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Caroline Vignal

Stars: Laure Calamy, Benjamin Lavernhe Louise Vidal, Olivia Cote.

Slight and quirky but thoroughly charming comedy, this film has been loosely inspired by author Robert Louis Stevenson and his account of his 1879 travels through the picturesque Cevennes region of France, accompanied by a donkey.

The titular Antoinette (played with charm by Laure Calamy, who we recently saw in the dark crime thriller Only The Animals) is a fifth-grade schoolteacher who is having an affair with Vladimir (Benjamin Lavernhe), the parent of one of her pupils. Antoinette is looking forward to spending a week’s holiday with Vladimir, but is disappointed when he announced that he is about to spend a week with his wife and daughter hiking through the Cevennes National Park. On impulse, Antoinette decides to follow them, even though she is initially unprepared for the arduous demands of the walking trail. She sleeps in communal hostels and she lets slip to other travellers the real reason why she is on this journey. Word spreads along the trail and Antoinette becomes something of a celebrity.

Forced out of her comfort zone this little jaunt turns into a journey of discovery for Antoinette. Antoinette receives plenty of advice along the way from sympathetic fellow travellers and hostel owners. She travels with Patrick, a stubborn pack donkey with a will of its own. But (as is suggested by the film’s alternative title My Donkey, My Lover & I) a bond soon develops between Antoinette and Patrick, and this is the emotional core of the film. The MVP here is Daniel, Antoinette’s pack donkey, which has a strong personality of its own, and its antics provide some of the film’s biggest laughs.

This is the sophomore feature from writer/director Caroline Vignal and follows her 2000 feature Girlfriends). She has a gentle touch here which suits the material, and there is a definite touch of the screwball comedy here. There is some gorgeous scenery of the Cevannes, nicely shot in widescreen by cinematographer Simon Beaufils (Still River, etc).

This is the first leading role for Calamy who is on screen for the whole film and she makes the most of this opportunity. She delivers a strong performance that taps into her gift for comic timing, physical humour and which also allows her to show a more vulnerable, lonely and desperate side to the character as well as charting her emotional growth.


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