French Comedy ‘Let My People Go’ Delves into Family Problems With Quirky Humor

Snapper S. Ploen


Let My People Go!

Two Stars (Out of Four)

Not Rated

Les Films Pelléas/ Canal+


Nestled somewhere among the avenues of a Jewish family comedy and a gay love story, Let My People Go! offers viewers a taste of French cinema that alternates between satisfying and genuinely clever.  Ruben (Nicolas Maury) is a gay Jewish Parisian living in Finland with his boyfriend Teemu (Jarkko Niemi). Their sweet domestic life in a colorful rural hamlet becomes unraveled when Ruben (working as a local postman) delivers a package to a resident who opens it, discovers almost 200,000 Euros and promptly refuses to accept it after signing the delivery notice. A scuffle ensues on the lawn and the resident feigns a heart attack, leaving Ruben with a package full of cash. Although viewers might wonder why Ruben wouldn’t call an ambulance, he shows his rather devious side by suddenly snatching the riches and making a quick retreat home.


Upon informing Teemu of what has happened, the lovers engage in a moral disagreement over whether Ruben should keep the package. Teemu is disgusted with Ruben’s actions and kicks him out of the house with just two suitcases. With nowhere to go, Ruben decides to return to Paris and his Jewish family who are currently enduring their own surplus of emotional and relationship problems. En route to Paris, Ruben loses his luggage (containing the stolen bounty) and is forced to wait for the airline to locate them while he shacks up with his dysfunctional family and their many issues. His mother, Rachel (played by the brilliant Carmen Maura), is both subtle and striking with her comedic lines, which layer Ruben with the guilt and love only a condescending mother can provide. Meanwhile, his father (Jean-François Stévenin as Nathan) is both pitiful and endearing. He exhibits a likeable weakness as a man in love with two women – his wife and his mistress of 20 years (Aurore Clément) – and his frustrating inability to make decisions. Ruben’s sister Irène (Amira Casar) is mostly morose and fraught with domestic arguments with her husband Hervé (Charlie Dupont), while their brother Samuel (Clément Sibony) is the anchor of the family.


Throughout the film, there are a number of hilarious sequences with sharp and creative editing. In one, Ruben describes how his brother-in-law (Hervé) lost his privileges to eat at the family dinner table when he used the wrong words in a discussion about Israeli-Palestinian politics. The debate ends with a single fist. In another, a dream sequence, Ruben describes a commercial featuring his mother who attempts to “Jew”-up her son with a special aerosol spray: a few sprays later and he’s grown a Yiddish beard and is perfectly reciting Hebrew.


As a side note, it is refreshing to see a story with a gay male as the lead where the plot does not revolve around his sexuality, but places it as simply one square on a complex checkerboard of family interactions.


Despite the amusing family neuroses and the “struggle through adversity to find happiness” underlining, the film ultimately comes off as flatly agreeable, but hardly fantastic. It has its adorable moments of affection filtered through a shell of eccentric family stories and slapstick humor. Those scenes meant to convey deeper feelings never find real intensity even though the conflicts they hover around are both real and thought-provoking. Director Mikael Buch certainly shows talent in directing some fine actors here and most certainly exhibits a quirky and likeable style. Perhaps next time he won’t keep things too light-hearted as to explore the true depths of loss and reconnection.


Author Bio:

Snapper Ploen is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.

not popular
Bottom Slider: 
Out Slider