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Happy Birthday

Fête de famille

Family relations unravel to wonderfully excruciating comic and dramatic effect in this all-star ensemble piece from versatile French writer-director and here, co-star, Cédric Kahn.

Dir Cédric Kahn
Prod Sylvie Pialat
Scr Cédric Kahn, Fanny Burdino, Samuel Doux
With Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Bercot, Vincent Macaigne
France
2019
101min
Sales Elle Driver
With English subtitles

It’s one of the perennial standbys of French cinema – stories about families airing their dirty laundry at dynastic get-togethers, often in idyllic country settings. In Happy Birthday, Cédric Kahn (Wild Life, Red Lights, Roberto Succo) offers his own spirited take on the premise. A sprawling clan is assembled to celebrate the birthday of matriarch Andréa (Catherine Deneuve). However, no one has reckoned with the shenanigans of wayward filmmaker son Romain (Vincent Macaigne), or with the sudden appearance of prodigal daughter Claire (Emmanuelle Bercot), trailing a cargo of psychological baggage that’s about to be messily unpacked. Comic, caustic and touching a deep dramatic nerve, this is a magnificently controlled, exuberantly acted character piece, with director Kahn also mightily impressive as long-suffering older son Vincent.

Jonathan Romney

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