20 August 2017 | guy-bellinger
India tries to make it to... India
Year after year, once or twice a summer season, appears a regular UFO, all the more refreshing and enjoyable as it has been unheralded before and so, totally catches you by surprise. And this is the case here. Who indeed had heard before of Eric Gravel (a French Canadian living in France whose first feature this is), of his main actress India Hair (whose hitherto supporting roles – often as a schoolgirl or a student - still had not given her a name) and of the movie itself, oddly titled "Crash Test Aglaé", filmed in 2015 but shelved until August 2017? Hardly anybody I would say, but little does it matter since no sooner have you read the summary or watched the trailer than you are hooked: you just feel like going to the closest movie theater in the area to find out about the plot developments. And to become friends with the heroine, 25-year-old Aglaé, that young woman like no others. To tell you more about her, know that the lady has been brought up by irresponsible parents and, as a result, has been suffering from permanent anxiety. In order to fight her insecurities, she has devised a special method, namely living an extremely well-ordered life and practicing her job (as a vehicle crash test worker) in a rigorous, almost finicky way, which incidentally makes her her factory's best preparer. So just imagine the shock she experiences the day she learns the plant she works in is to be relocated: her inner framework logically tumbles down and depression looms. A different job is just unconceivable! Which is why when the parent company hypocritically offers her (along with the rest of the staff) to hold the same job at its new location... India, she... accepts! Even if it means having to travel and live 7,500 kilometers away from her native place, even if the trip is at her expense, even if it includes a pay cut and the loss of all welfare benefits. What does that matter, she will go there come rain or come shine! And away she drives in an old Citroën Visa, accompanied by two co-workers, Liette (Julie Depardieu) and Marcelle (Yolande Moreau), who – for reasons of their own - have decided to follow her. An eventful trip ensues, whose twists and turns must not be spoiled: you will be better served when you discover them on a screen yourself, whether small or big.
Suffice it to say that there are plenty of gags and witty lines - mainly in the first half of the film -, the comedy being aptly provided by Julie Depardieu and Yolande Moreau (the latter downright irresistible with her improbable Looney Tunes Granny look and wry humor). Among the most effective comic effects are the satiric bites at today's so-said managers of human resources, their being ridiculed acting as a vicarious revenge on those inhuman fellows (I'm thinking, in particular, of the one in charge of delocations unabashedly eating peanuts under the nose of those he lays off). The relationships between the three women, whether in the factory scenes or in those featuring the trip's disastrous beginning, also rank among the funniest.
But don't be mistaken: "Crash Test Aglaé", while undeniably a comedy, cannot be reduced to this kind of light entertainment. So don't expect a pure exemplary of the genre. For there is more to Gravel's film than just a series of good laughs. As a matter of fact, the more Aglaé moves on, the darker the tone of the narrative gets, passing from a bit crazy at the beginning to more and more serious, going as far as to border on the tragic towards the end. The reason is that, as time goes on, difficulties pile up in hostile environments for Aglaé (now alone as her companions have dropped her midway). And as the young woman never wants to give up whatever the obstacles, the situation cannot but worsen. What also makes the film less funny (but more profound) is that the journey , merely physical at the beginning is gradually matched by another - all interior: Aglaé puts herself to the test and discovers her own reactions to the ordeal she goes through until in the end she knows who she actually is and how she will embrace life in the time ahead.
But although graver the second part sequences are never boring, surprising and unpredictable as they are. The most remarkable thing may lie in fact that in the closing scenes Eric Gravel manages to marry the opposite tones of his film's two parts. Humour and satire then resurface within the philosophical tale but without jarring, thus ending at best this offbeat picture.
As a bonus, this second part features unexpected but all the more impressive views of the Kazakhstan desert.
And let's not forget India Hair for whom the whole movie is a showcase. Her talent really explodes in it. Forceful and stubbornly serious in a comic environment, she stands out of all the other performers. She really carries the whole film on her young shoulders and deserves praise for that
My recommendation is not to miss this stimulatingly original film. Believe me, not only will it surprise and entertain you but it will give you food for thought in addition. Not a bad programme, is it?