A Sunday in the Country (1984)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Period Film, Family Drama  |   Run Time - 94 min.  |   Countries - France   |   MPAA Rating - G
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Review by Mike Cummings

This award-winning 1984 film poses questions asked by virtually every older person: If I could live my life over again, would I do anything different? Is it too late now to change? Monsieur Ladmiral, a widower, considers these questions on a quiet Sunday afternoon while his children and grandchildren visit him in the countryside near Paris. Portraying the 76-year-old Ladmiral is Louis Ducreux, a 73-year-old veteran of the French stage who never before acted in a film. Ducreux glazes his character with cheer and good humor while still revealing wistful melancholy and quiet desolation. Although always restrained, his emotions bridled, Ducreux uses subtle gestures and turns of conversation to expose Ladmiral's disdain for his son Gonzague's (Michel Aumont) complacent, middle-class lifestyle and his envy for his daughter Irène's (Sabine Azéma) risk-taking, topsy-turvy lifestyle. Ironically, the film itself is something of an impressionist work, perhaps after the manner of Renoir's painting A Day in the Country. Director Bertrand Tavernier lets the movie go where it wants to, when it wants to, without heed to traditional plot conventions. Like its central character, the film is always subtle, never obvious. There are no shouting matches -- à la On Golden Pond -- and no great moments of epiphany. After his children's visit, life goes on. And Monsieur Ladmiral returns to his studio, examines a painting he has been working on, and looks longingly out the window as the light of the setting sun begins to yield to the evening shadows.