'The Well Digger's Daughter' is as pretty as a poppy field
"The Well Digger's Daughter," directed by — and starring — Daniel Auteuil, is an affectionate remake of the 1940 Marcel Pagnol film of the same name. A period drama, it was filmed with painstaking attention to pretty costumes and while its happy ending isn't entirely believable, it's a quiet story, carefully told, writes Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald. The film is playing at Seattle's Varsity.
Seattle Times movie critic
'The Well Digger's Daughter,' with Daniel Auteuil, Kad Merad, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Sabine Azéma, Nicolas Duvauchelle. Written and directed by Auteuil, based on the 1940 film by Marcel Pagnol. 110 minutes. In French with English subtitles. Not rated; for mature audiences. Varsity.
Daniel Auteuil's "The Well Digger's Daughter," an affectionate remake of the 1940 film by Marcel Pagnol, feels like a French variant on a Merchant-Ivory film. It's the kind of movie almost nobody makes any more: a period drama, filmed with painstaking attention to pretty costumes, beautiful landscapes and gentle, poetic light and set to a lush, velvety score by Alexandre Desplat. You feel yourself slowing down and relaxing as you watch; there's nothing rushed or crowded about this film, just a quiet story carefully told.
Auteuil is a veteran of French cinema who's been a well-known actor for many decades, with credits including "Caché," "The Closet," "The Valet" and "My Best Friend." He makes his directing debut with this film and stars as the titular well digger, a widower living in the French countryside just before the start of World War I. He has six daughters; the oldest of whom is Patricia (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), who years ago was sent to Paris for her education, but returned home after her mother's death. She quietly manages their modest home, cares for her sisters, cooks and cleans ... and one day, catches the eye of a handsome young pilot (Nicolas Duvauchelle). Though relatively wealthy (he's a shopkeeper's son) and therefore out of her league, he captivates Patricia, but their brief affair has devastating consequences.
The lovely Bergès-Frisbey, whose face would look just right on a delicate cameo, sweetly captures the innocence of a teenager with dreams; Auteuil, a French Tevye struggling to understand his fleet of daughters, brings a gruff but loving honesty to his role.
"I thought you were an angel," he says to Patricia, after she has hesitantly told him her news; you see, in his etched face, a man seeing his daughter for the first time. "The Well Digger's Daughter" makes its way to a happy ending that isn't entirely believable, despite the actors' skill — but it's as pretty as a sun-drenched poppy field, or a young heroine's guileless, hopeful smile.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org