out of Five
Running time: 92
Enjoyably offbeat and frequently hilarious, this is an engaging road movie with a terrific central performance from Gerard Depardieu, though it tails off in the second half and its curiously disjointed structure is ultimately frustrating.
What's it all about?
Written and directed (in the Coen Brothers sense) by Benoit Delepine and Gustave de Kervern, Mammuth stars Gerard Depardieu as Serge Pilardosse, a long-haired, 60-something ex-biker and slaughterhouse worker who has reached retirement age. However, when he tries to claim his pension, he discovers that several of his previous employers neglected to declare his earnings, so he dusts off his 1970s Mammuth motorcycle (which has also earned him the nickname Mammuth) and, encouraged by his long-suffering wife Catherine (Yolande Moreau), sets off on a road trip in order to collect the paperwork he needs.
Along the way, Serge has some increasingly surreal encounters with former employers, old friends and long-lost family members alike, one of which is genuinely jaw-dropping. At the same time, Serge finds himself haunted by a lost love (Isabelle Adjani), whose blood-splattered ghost pops up occasionally.
Depardieu is superb as Serge, a lumbering, not-too-bright but well-meaning man who gradually realises what people actually think of him – it turns out that several of his ex-employers thought he would be too stupid to request his paperwork. There's also strong support from both Yolande Moreau and Miss Ming (as Serge's niece), while Isabelle Adjani proves inspired casting as his lost love – her haunting eyes will stay with you long after you have left the cinema.
The first half of the film is extremely funny, with Depardieu indulging in some genuinely hilarious physical comedy, whether it's fighting with a supermarket trolley, ineptly trying to mend his bathroom door (and getting locked in) or being affected by a crying man in a restaurant.
However, the second half of the film is less successful as the plot starts to meander and the disjointed structure becomes increasingly frustrating, with several scenes feeling scrappy and only half thought-out; this is particularly disappointing when set against the successful comedy moments in the first half. That said, the film does manage to pull it back together for a satisfying emotional climax.
Mammuth is an enjoyably offbeat comedy-drama that's worth seeing for its genuinely hilarious first half and a typically superb performance from Gerard Depardieu.