Rare is the film that dares to entertain without guns, computerized graphics, seamy sex, or maudlin sentimentality. Le Chateau de Ma Mère (aka My Mother's Castle) is such a film. Based on the memoirs of noted filmmaker and writer Marcel Pagnol, it celebrates the joys of family life in an age when the world spun slowly on its axis and little boys hearkened to the chirp of a cricket. The film follows the adventures of the Pagnol family on their weekend outings at a cottage in the hills surrounding Marseilles, France, in the first decade of the 20th century. They awaken to forest sounds and beckoning sunlight, eat at a table under a leafy canopy, and sleep in the quiet security of love. If only we, the viewers, could be with them. Beautiful Nathalie Roussel portrays Marcel's mother with engaging warmth as she turns the family's humble cottage into a castle in which her knights in shining armor -- husband Joseph (Philippe Caubère) and children Marcel (Julien Ciamaca) and Paul (Victorien Delamare) -- prepare to sally forth in search of adventure, or simply to laze in the shade of a tree. A delightful interlude involves Marcel's fascination with a bossy little girl (Julie Timmerman) who fancies herself a princess and Marcel her groveling servant. In response to her commands, he kisses her hand, crawls and barks like a dog, and listens attentively to her piano music. The film's script is outstanding, delivering gentle wit and poignant insights. The cinematography reveals the beauty of the Provençal countryside as well as the charm of a smiling child. Though the film is clearly nostalgic, it never stoops to artifice to achieve its effects.
by Mike Cummings review