Sur les chemins noirs / On the Wandering Paths (Movie Review) | Landscapes and Deep Thoughts

Starring Jean Dujardin (The Wolf of Wall Street, OSS 117), who is most likely known in North America for his Oscar-winning role in The Artist (2011), this French film is directed by Denis Impbert and it’s the adaptation of On the Wandering Paths by French travel writer and essayist Sylvain Tesson. Anny Duperey, Izïa Higelin (Samba), Joséphine Japy (Breathe, The Monk), Dylan Robert (Vampires), and Jonathan Zaccaï (The Bureau, The Poisoning Angel, Robin Hood) round out the cast for this intimate movie.

Premise: After a stupid accidental fall that led him into a coma from which he came out dented with heavy physical after-effects, Pierre, a well-known writer, decides, despite the opposition of his doctors, to walk from the Mercantour park to the nose of Jobourg following the diagonal of the void of France. Throughout his hike, he regularly recalls his past before his accident, where he led a dissolute life and suffered from alcoholism, which leads him to question the meaning of life.

Review: I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but this movie might sound more tedious than it actually is. It’s an intimate and quiet movie so it’s not heavy on dialogue, and there is a lot of silence. It’s also a lot of beautiful landscapes from the French countryside and deep thoughts from our main character, so this film could have felt like a nature documentary with a nice voiceover but it doesn’t. The intimacy and the character-centric story stir this film away from that, and the fact that it’s autobiographical helps because it feels personal.

The writing, directing, and acting were key to make this particular movie palatable. Dujardin is more than capable to convey a lot through his movements and his eyes alone, even though the character’s inner monologues and the short flashbacks add to it. The way the story is told and shot works well. It is an inspiring story about a broken man trying to reclaim part of who he is while reflecting on who he was, but it’s not trying to be inspiring instead it’s just taking you on the journey, sharing these moments with the audience. It does sound and look like meditation on film, which can be seen as hoity-toity, smug, pompous, or boring depending on how you perceive these things – or the people on this project – but at the core of it it’s about getting back up, overcoming the bad things in life, and that’s a beautiful message.

This film is oddly captivating if you’re open to it.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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