This 1990 French film presents idyllic episodes from the childhood of novelist and filmmaker Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974). Together, the episodes present a portrait of an ordinary family with an extraordinary ability to love. Set in Provencal in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the film first introduces members of the family, including Marcel (Julien Ciamaca). When he is still a preschooler, his father Joseph, a teacher, takes him to classes to watch over him. Marcel, however, learns along with the other children and starts to read out loud in class. Astonished, Joseph (Philippe Caubère) writes a sentence on the blackboard and asks, "What does that say?" Marcel, reading the words, says, "The father is proud of his little boy." This little scene establishes the tone and meaning of the film. Flashing ahead seven years, the camera then follows the Pagnols after they leave Marseilles for a summer vacation in the Provencal countryside, there to bask in the simplicity of rural life. From then on, it is not what happens to the family that engages audiences; it is how it happens -- with a quiet exuberance and joie de vivre. Besides Marcel and his father, the vacationers include his mother, Augustine (Nathalie Roussel), a beautiful and kindly homemaker; Marcel's little brother Paul (Victorien Delamare); and his Uncle Jules (Didier Pain) and Aunt Rose (Thérèse Liotard). After they arrive at their cottage, 11-year-old Marcel wastes no time wading into the greenery in search of adventure. What he finds is another adventuresome boy, Lili de Bellons (Joris Molinas), a native of the region. They become friends and fellow explorers, capturing cicadas, climbing rocks, and even invading an eagle's cave. Sometimes they just have fun shouting to hear an echo boomeranging back. At meal times -- often outdoors -- fresh fruit and good-natured repartee satisfy appetites. For spectator sport, the diners listen to the occasional religious arguments between Uncle Jules, a God-fearing Catholic, and Joseph, a God-doubting agnostic. Augustine and Aunt Rose avoid the polemics, for they have more important matters on their minds: keeping house, watching children, and planning the next day's menu. And then the film takes a turn toward real drama. Uncle Jules, full of tales about his prowess as a hunter, persuades Joseph, full of ignorance about guns and hunting, to go on a bird hunt. Woe is Papa, Marcel thinks. When the day of the great hunt arrives, Marcel secretly follows Joseph and Uncle Jules into the woods, setting the stage for the film's climactic moment.
by Mike Cummings synopsis