Monday, 18 April 2011

In the Beginning

This is another film you will not have seen at the cinema. Based on a true story, this 2009 French film, written and directed by Xavier Giannoli, stars Francois Cluzet as Paul, a small-time con man who drives into a small French town and within 24 hours inadvertently changes the lives of most its inhabitants, bringing hope to people who had been depressed since a highway project was abandoned two years before.

Calling himself Philippe Miller, Paul pretends to be one of the highway construction company managers, hinting that construction is about to start up again in order to bribe would-be suppliers. When one of them mentions that others would be willing to pay bribes to get the heavily unemployed town out of trouble, Paul cannot resist trying his luck a little longer and suddenly the town is awash with rumours and hope. If it were not true, what happens during the following three months would not seem credible.

In the Beginning is about the inner struggle of a man fighting desperately to let go of who he has become and become someone new, someone he can be proud of for the first time in his life. It is also about townspeople wanting so desperately to believe in hope and in themselves that they blind themselves to the truth at every turn. In both cases people need the opportunity to make something better of their lives and there are things we all can learn about our own ongoing struggles to be all that we are called to be.

Cluzet is perfect as Miller, conveying his thoughts and emotions through his face rather than through words. Supporting roles by Emmanuelle Devos and Soko are also particularly strong. In the Beginning is a well-made drama that is both painful and inspiring to watch. ***+ My mug is up.

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