Not too sweet, although occasionally predictable, it is full of good humour and offers the critical feel-good moment that will have some of the audience’s eyes welling.
Paula Bélier (played by Louane Emera) is a schoolgirl on the edge of womanhood and the first child of a deaf couple, Gigi (Karin Viard) and Rodolphe (François Damiens), who moved from Paris years before to run a farm.
Paula is both the odd one out in her family and a key resource since she can hear. She is not in with the in-crowd at school but she is the lynchpin of her family and its business dealings, since even her younger brother Quentin (Luca Gelberg) is deaf.
Her farm duties and her valuable role as a go-between for the farm and its various suppliers and creditors mean she is often tired. When an attractive Parisian boy, Gabriel Chevignon (Ilian Bergala), enrols temporarily at her school, she is keen to engage with him, even to the extent of enrolling in a choir. Unfortunately, her hopes are soon dashed. Only her friend Mathilde (Roxane Duran) seems a true support.
Real life 19-year-old singer Emera’s young and earnest protagonist Paula sometimes seems older than she should, but one can mostly suspend disbelief. Her concerns are recognisably those of teen life, and the volatility of a dawning love life rings true. Throughout the ups and downs of her relationships is one other constant: the belief of her music teacher, Fabien Thomasson (a charming Eric Elmosnino), that she has something special to offer. Yes, the girl can sing.
But can a girl raised in a deaf household rise to the calling of an identity that celebrates her gift, and will the family acknowledge it, even if it is at a cost to them? Will they let her go to Paris to pursue her ambitions? Will she give in and stay on the farm, adhering to a sense of obligation to her family, especially as her father has decided to run for mayor in order to thwart developers?
A lingering question for this reviewer is whether the only hearing and speaking member of an otherwise deaf family would speak when in their presence, as happens in this movie. Is it only for the benefit of the audience? It is a minor niggle, however.
For the most part, The Bélier Family is an engaging story of adapting to new opportunities, and of the power of a loving family when one member has the chance to follow a dream. File it under uplifting.
The Bélier Family opens in cinemas on Boxing Day.
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