My Father’s Glory
- Julien Ciamaca as Marcel Pagnol
- Philippe Caubère as Joseph Pagnol
- Nathalie Roussel as Augustine Pagnol
- Didier Pain as Uncle Jules
- Thérèse Liotard as Aunt Rose
- Joris Molinas as Lili
A sublimely enchanting and thoroughly engaging movie, My Father’s Glory charts the events in the childhood of author/ film maker Marcel Pagnol’s life. Told as a set of anecdotes from mainly a summer adventure in the hills of Provence, it is impossible to not be swept up in this tale based on Pagnol’s memoirs as it just grabs a hold of you in a subtle way and invites you to bathe in the splendid idyll of childhood.
Marcel Pagnol was born in 1895 in Aubagne, France and throughout My Father’s Glory, as an adult he narrates the subsequent events in his youth and the impact they had on him. His father Joseph was a schoolteacher who is firm but incredibly warm and his mother is a sweetly engaging woman named Augustine. The young Marcel, who moves to Marseille when he is young, shows brightness from the age of three and a spirited imagination, which obviously led to his literacy talents in later life. He idolizes his father, who in his eyes is the turning point of the universe and holds deep adoration for his mother. Also around him is his younger brother Paul, a baby sister, nurturing Aunt Rose and Uncle Jules;who is a man of religion and tall, inventive tales. The differing in attitudes between Marcel’s father Joseph(who is an atheist) and pious Jules provides an amusing backdrop as they bicker often over dinners about beliefs. One summer break, Aunt Rose and Uncle Jules invite the rest of the family to a summer house in Provence. Surrounded by hills, mountains and nature, the young Marcel comes into his element as he begins exploring and encountering adventures. Along the way he meets Lili, a boy adept at providing for his family in the wilderness. The two become fast friends and bond over their discoveries over the course of the summer. Meanwhile, tensions rise a bit between Joseph and Jules, with the latter showing Joseph up with his skills at hunting. These events show Marcel that while he has put his father on a pedestal, his father is not perfect. This combined with many more life lessons learned over the summer, open Marcel’s eyes and mind. But when it is time to return to the city, Marcel doesn’t know what to do as he can’t let go of all the wonderful times he experiences.
From the opening shots of the French countryside, director Yves Robert places us straight into the bucolic beauty and nostalgic glee of Marcel’s childhood memories. He employs a pace that is patient yet rewarding as it resembles the long summer days when everything in the world seems so fresh and new. It’s hard not to be warmed by watching My Father’s Glory, it is a movie that practically lives and breathes in bright sunshine and puckish games. Yet, the film has something of a poignancy as we hear the adult Marcel reflecting on his time as a child, that was extremely happy and bright, but has now passed and is now a memory for him of a bygone era. If anyone else had directed My Father’s Glory, I’m almost certain they would crank up the sentimentality a lot. But in the capable hands of Robert, the film, while obviously nostalgic, has free charm and a moving undercurrent that keeps it from become a schmaltz fest. And one cannot simply review My Father’s Glory and not speak of the absolutely dazzling visuals and locations. Breathtaking in their natural beauty and dappled with sun, the world of Marcel’s childhood glows with the glee of a youth and rustic charm of the countryside that Marcel explores and becomes hugely enamored with as the movie goes on. The movie is told as events rather than a hugely structured plot, but that is part of the fun to be found. We get such a captivating picture of life from a child’s point of view that any quibbles people could find with narrative are put to bed rather quickly. Humour and drama can be found throughout, particularly in the skirmishes between Joseph and Jules, which remain cordial enough but at times rise to heated disagreements. A wistful score is the perfect accompaniment to the idyllic areas of this tale, the simple pleasures of life and it must be said, the score reaches some exceptionally stunning highlights.
Portraying the young Marcel, who the events revolve around and his observations of them all, Julien Ciamaca is a marvel of youthful energy and high spirits. With a beaming smile and very expressive eyes, he captures the imaginative outlook of Marcel and the ways in which these childhood experiences make an indelible impression on his mind and soul. In other words, it’s a stunning performance from Ciamaca and one that is hard to forget. Essaying the role of the eponymous father, Philippe Caubère projects warmth, passion and a respect, that makes him appear to be almost super human in the eyes of his young son, when in fact he is only human after all. As Marcel’s almost ethereal mother, Nathalie Roussel is maternal love personified with an angelic face and graceful eloquence. Didier Pain often steals the show as the blustering and more than a little arrogant Uncle Jules; whose tendencies of bragging and talk of religion ignite arguments between him and Joseph. Then we have Thérèse Liotard as Aunt Rose, who like Augustine, is more than adept at defusing the debates between her husband and brother-in-law while being doting on the children around her. Rounding out the cast is Joris Molinas as the nature boy Lili, who becomes a very close friend of Marcel’s during the course of the summer stay.
An utterly beguiling evocation of childhood and the wide-eyed optimism of being young, My Father’s Glory is a beautiful testament to a wonderous growing up that both touches, amuses and warms the heart.