TWO IS A FAMILY

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Hugo Gelin

Stars: Omar Sy, Clemence Poesy, Antoine Bertrand, Gloria Colston, Ashley Walters, Clementine Celarie, Raphael von Blumenthal.

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A remake of the 2013 Mexican comedy Instructions Not Included, the crowd pleasing Two Is A Family is sort of a Gallic Kramer Versus Kramer that deliberately tugs at the heartstrings. It was the most popular film at the French box office in 2017-18, and recently screened to great acclaim at the French Film Festival here in Australia.

It stars Omar Sy, who was wonderful in the fantastic French film The Intouchables. Here he launches an all-out charm offensive with his huge smile, his infectious personality and energy. Sy plays the hard-partying Samuel, who enjoys a hedonistic lifestyle on the French Riviera, where he uses his boss’s yacht to charm the local ladies. But then one day his life is turned upside down when Kristin (Clemence Poesy, from In Bruges, etc) arrives with a three-month old baby in her arms. She claims that Sam is Gloria’s father, and leaves her with him before disappearing in a taxi.

Samuel is a bit of an irresponsible sort and has no idea how to care for a baby. He quickly jets off to London in an effort to find Kristin, to no avail. Samuel’s dilemma is exacerbated by the fact that he doesn’t speak English, which leads to some confusion and misunderstandings, that are more often than not played for laughs. But he does attract the attention of camp flamboyant movie producer Bernie (Antoine Bertrand, from A Bun In The Oven, etc), who offers him a job as a stunt man. Bernie also proves helpful in helping to raise Gloria.

Samuel dotes on Gloria (played by newcomer Gloria Colston), and tries to give her the best life possible and works hard to keep her happy. Samuel explains the absence of Gloria’s mother by inventing a story about her being a spy on top secret missions. He justifies this deception by saying that sometimes it is okay to lie in order to not hurt someone.

But then eight years later Kristin turns up out of the blue with her new partner (Ashley Walters) and demands her maternal rights to raise Gloria. Her presence upsets the loving bond that has developed between Samuel and Gloria. Courtroom struggles follow as the judge sympathetically tries to gauge what is in the best interest of the child.

This enjoyable film has been written and directed by Hugo Gelin (Just Like Brothers, etc), who, working with a team of writers, has adapted Eugenio Derbez’s original script and given it a Gallic makeover. He keeps the tone light and gentle for the most part, and the script is a sensitive exploration of the father/daughter dynamic. There are some very funny moments throughout and lots of physical humour from the energetic Sy. But the material does take a rather dour and darker turn in the latter stages when the unsympathetic Kristin appears on the scene intent on tearing Gloria away from Samuel.

Early scenes set in London have a picture postcard like quality, thanks largely to the cinematography of Nicholas Massart, who also shot Gelin’s previous film. And there’s some great production design that has created the garishly decorated apartment that Samuel shares with Gloria.

Sy is a very appealing leading man here and exudes plenty of charm. The very appealing, frizzy-haired Colston also has a warm and charming screen presence that grabs our attention. There is great rapport between Sy and the very appealing Colston. I also liked Bertrand’s delightful performance as Bernie, who has a roving eye for any good looking male in the vicinity.

★★★☆

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