out of Five
Running time: 114
Brilliantly directed, impeccably acted French drama with a script that's both laugh-out-loud funny and deeply moving – this is easily one of the best films of the year.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Remi Bezancon, The First Day of the Rest of Your Life traces the life of a French family through five key days between 1988 and 2000, with each family member's story taking place on a particular day.
In 1988, eldest son Albert Duval (Pio Marmai) moves into his own flat and meets his future wife, Prune (Cecile Cassel). In 1992, rebellious daughter Fleur (Deborah Francois) turns 16 and decides to lose her virginity. We also see middle son Raph (Marc-Andre Grondin) entering an air guitar competition and falling for a fellow contestant (Camille De Pazzis) he meets only briefly, mother Marie-Jeanne (Zabou Breitman) arguing with Fleur and struggling to hold onto her youth as she decides to go back to college and father Robert (Jacques Gamblin) feuding with his own wine-loving father (Roger Dumas) and growing estranged from Albert, seemingly unaware that he's replicating his unhappy father-son relationship with his own son.
Bezancon has assembled a wonderful ensemble cast, all of whom deliver terrific performances. There's also a sparky chemistry between them that is utterly convincing – as a result, it often feels like we're observing a real family, albeit an improbably good-looking one.
The script is excellent, with each day containing brilliantly edited flashbacks or anecdotes that flesh out the various stories; Fleur's giggly confession to her best friend about her first sexual encounter is a particular comic highlight. In addition, the likeable characters are also extremely well drawn and Bezancon orchestrates several brilliant scenes that are by turns heartbreaking, laugh-out-loud funny and ultimately life-affirming.
Bezancon also makes terrific use of a brilliant soundtrack throughout the film, particularly during the delightful air guitar competition scenes – the sight of Robert gazing in wonderment as his son performs is just one of many wonderful images and moments that will stay with you long after you leave the cinema.
The First Day of the Rest of Your Life is a hugely enjoyable, frequently funny and powerfully emotional family drama that confirms writer-director Bezancon as a talent to watch. Unmissable and one of the best films of the year.
The First Day of the Rest of Your Life (15)