Three grown children gathered at the picturesque villa of their dying father reflect on where they are, who they have become, and what they have inherited, in Robert Guédiguian’s elegiac tribute to a family and a fading lifestyle.
The House by the Sea
Robert Guédiguian has trod a singular path over the past three decades. His films are almost all set in his beloved hometown of Marseille. As a committed leftist and former Communist, he deals with working-class social issues. And as an artist he has worked continuously with the same stock company of actors, mostly notably Ariane Ascaride (to whom he is married), Gérard Meylan, and Jean-Pierre Darroussin.
His new film is unquestionably one of the peaks in his illustrious career. Featuring all the above actors, it tells, with no sentimentality, a tragic tale of family discord. When the patriarch of the family suffers a stroke, his three adult offspring assemble in the small fishing port of their childhood to attend to their father. It is clear, almost from the outset, that while each one of them has lived very different lives, the ghosts and skeletons in the family closet have still not been laid to rest.
Using this as his framework, Guédiguian finds a deep well of subject matter: how this little seaport has changed with the world around it, how its people have changed, and what it means to live life based on values. The devil is in the details of this rich tapestry of culture that Guédeguian examines as he connects how the local relates to the global. His intelligence as a filmmaker shimmers throughout this elegiac tribute to a family and a fading lifestyle.