Back to Burgundy
Review by Michael D Hollick
Back to Burgundy is a heartwarming drama that explores the meaning of home and family. Set against the backdrop of a vineyard, the film follows the actions of the Jean, played by Pio Marmai, as he returns home to visit his father who has fallen ill. Jean has spent ten years away from home after leaving the family business, the vineyard, to see the world and all that it has to offer; his return signals his reunion with his two younger siblings, Juliette, played by Ana Giardot, and Jeremie, played by Francois Civil. As the three characters struggle to reconnect and understand one another as adults, the audience is granted an insight into the fragile and unspoken bonds that are only present between siblings.
Without much plot or narrative, the characters and their emotions are brought to the forefront of the movie. The focus on the struggle of reconnection that the siblings face highlights the power plays that are present within any family; the oldest is often viewed as the strongest who is also shackled with the most responsibility, whereas the youngest is the most protected who is offered the least chance to explore their potential.
As such, the trials and tribulations of the siblings are not glossy or dramatic, and by choosing this everyday ordinariness, writer-director Cedric Klapsich excels in finding and centering on the emotional core of the film. More than once, I found a lump in my throat or a tear in my eye as the innocuous narrative triggered family memories from the recesses of my own mind. This mental and emotional connection invites the audience in, and it will be up to each individual to choose how far along the journey they wish to go, though potentially, the scenario may be an ill fit for some, and fail to ignite an emotional response.
This leads us the other big part of the film, the wine. A natural motif for the film, wine is used not just in the setting of the film as home. The terms of the reunion on the vineyard do mean that the three siblings must all learn to work together and get along with one another. This also works as a metaphor for the maturation and complexities that can amount from the organic and simple. The development of emotional balance that they find resulting in something ‘just right’ is mirrored by the production of good wine, and the two often intersect with each other in the film.
Ultimately, this is a very European film that recalls the classic art-house movies that, in yesteryear, SBS used to to specialise in. With a quaint production and tone, Back to Burgundy is a loving reminder of how a good film can tug at the heartstrings and operate with emotional intelligence, whilst resisting the need to create a fervour.
Back to Burgundy runs at UWA Somerville until Dec 17 and at ECU Joondalup Pines from 19 Dec – 24 Dec. For tickets and more information, visit the Perth Festival website here.