Film: The Well Digger's Daughter (La fille du puisatier) (2011)
Cast includes: Daniel Auteuil (Jean de Florette, Caché), Astrid Bergès-Frisbey (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), Kad Merad (The Chorus), Nicholas Duvauchelle (White Material), Sabine Azéma (Private Fears in Public Places), Jean-Pierre Darroussin (A Very Long Engagement)
Director: Daniel Auteuil (Directorial debut)
Genre: Drama | Romance | Humor (107 minutes) French with subtitles
It's breathtaking, the scene where we watch Patricia walk across the field of red flowers with her father's lunch basket. When she comes to the fast-moving stream, she needs to stop and take her shoes off to cross. That's when Jacques notices her and tries to strike up a conversation. Shy Patricia is rather taken with him but tries not to show it. Suddenly, he picks her up and carries her to the other side... and she's off again to deliver her father's lunch. Pascal and Félipe stop work when Patricia arrives. Today is Patricia's 18th birthday, but her father, Pascal, acts like he's forgotten, hoping to surprise her later with a hat from Paris. Patricia's not concerned, she's still thinking about Jacques and wants to get back to the stream before he leaves. Félipe comments that his boss's daughter is "both kind and pretty." She is, indeed.
Here in Salon, it's unusual for a girl to speak with a Parisian accent, so Pascal tells Félipe the story. He had been disappointed when she was born because she wasn't a boy. So when a rich woman from Paris wanted to adopt her, Pascal agreed. After the woman died, Patricia returned to help with Pascal's four other daughters. He's now taken to calling her "Princess Patricia" because she's so refined and lovely. He now loves her as much as he would have loved a boy. When Patricia and Jacques meet again, she learns that he's the son of Salon's general store owner. What a disappointment... she's only the well digger's daughter, and she knows he won't be interested in her. In the meantime, Félipe wants to talk to Pascal about marrying Patricia. "I wouldn't be against someone like you," says Pascal with a slight hesitation. "But perhaps she needs someone with a fancy accent... who eats with a knife and fork." When Félipe tells Pascal that he has a small inheritance and a car, Pascal agrees to put in a good word. But Patricia gives Félipe no encouragement at all... until Félipe tells her he has tickets to the air show tonight and Jacques will be flying.
Patricia's brief romance with Jacques ends suddenly when Jacques is shipped off to war against Germany. Filmed in Provence with meticulous attention to detail, it's a remake of the 1940 film of the same name. Writer/Director Daniel Auteuil plays Pascal, and many will remember him from the 1986 film, Jean de Florette. Although The Well Digger's Daughter has all the ingredients of a melodrama, it never goes that route. We feel empathy for all the characters, even when we disagree with their actions. The story may be a throwback to another era, but it never feels passé. Once in a great while, it's a nice treat to indulge in a classic romance, hoping there's a prince for the lovely princess.
4 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
A gorgeous period romance with themes of class, social mores and unconditional love
Distribution: Art house
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: High-end production
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought-provoking
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