A Few Hours of Spring (2012)
Directed by Stephane Brize
Starring Vincent Lindon, Helene Vincent and Emmanuelle Seigner
One of the questions that a French officer asks a man leaving prison is if he had a place to stay after incarceration, and the man tells the officer that he’s going to live with his mother. Then we see a close-up of him riding a train while hearing a track from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ soundtrack for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Is this a test screening? Why can’t this movie get its own soundtrack? Alain Evrard (Lindon) was in jail for agreeing to smuggle drugs during his long haul trucking day. Stephane Brize never shows his enforced vacation but we can assume that it wasn’t a stroll. That said, his life after the clink isn’t so peachy neither. The job market isn’t as bountiful as it has been and even a minimum of 18 months in prison hinders his chances of getting back his job or anything within his usual pay grade. His mother Yvette (Vincent) has to take care of her son, as well as downing pills to fight a metastasizing tumour in her brain.
The confrontations between Alain and Yvette are overwrought as few as they are, and maybe that scarcity is the problem. Alain looks like his temper comes out of nowhere, Yvette’s asking him about his job hunt coming only from a place of concern. There seems to be a truncated version of this story where she badgers him more. But showing those scenes would have made us lose our sympathy for a dying old woman, Brize thus giving us a lose-lose situation.
At least Yvette’s not passive, unlike Alain’s girlfriend (Seigner). We also get a great performance from Vincent in those scenes or other ones when Yvette and Alain are more cordial towards each other. She can be explosive or has that zen-like callousness, like in a scene that makes us worry about her dog, Calie. Her face has that strength of expressiveness that we think she no longer has, and if her face is hidden, her hands or body will quiver or move with command. She should have been the focus of the movie instead of having to share it with Alain.
The movie also tries not to be the most visually ornate, except for a few remarkable shots of Yvette. It’s a strange world she’s driving herself into. Because of her illness she’s also seriously considering assisted suicide, a subject handled subtly by the movie, the characters’ opinions on the subject brought forth through implications, not sermons. But these transitions are depicted as normally as possible. I didn’t like that almost bare approach while watching it but it’s an understandable decision on a sensitive subject.