Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original Title: Une semaine de vacances
France, 1980. Sara Films, Antenne 2, Little Bear. Screenplay by Marie-Françoise Hans, Bertrand Tavernier, Colo Tavernier. Cinematography by Pierre-William Glenn. Produced by Alain Sarde, Bertrand Tavernier. Music by Pierre Papadiamandis. Production Design by Jean-Baptiste Poirot. Costume Design by Yvette Bonnay. Film Editing by Armand Psenny.
Nathalie Baye is a schoolteacher whose boyfriend (Gérard Lanvin) is driving her to work when she suddenly becomes overwhelmed and insists on being let out of the car. She can’t go into the classroom again and face her students, she feels stressed out by their expectations and her own fears about whether or not she is connecting with them.
To deal with this incredible, almost spiritual ambivalence, she takes a week’s leave from work, deciding to stay home and avoid Lanvin, having frequent flashbacks to certain situations at school that may have contributed to her current feeling. She befriended the father of one of her students when he came in to discuss his son’s academic performance, and she now visits the bar he owns and has dinner with him and a friend (a cameo by Tavernier mainstay Philippe Noiret), then takes a few days to travel out to the countryside to visit her aging parents.
All these experiences give her time to reflect, relax and gather herself up in order to decide what her next move should be: so much is on the table, both her job as well as the option to get serious with Lanvin and whether or not to become a mother, and her reaching a crossroads about her future as a teacher seems to be the thing to bring it all into focus.
Thankfully, Bertrand Tavernier is as smart about real life as he is sensitive to his protagonist falling apart, and there is never an emphasis on a tidy decision to put away all doubt and solve all problems. The period of turmoil that Baye undergoes allows for a smart and touching investigation of how little decisions add up, and Tavernier manages to capture the very realistic element of adult life that doesn’t allow one obvious issue to be the cause of one’s suffering with their mental or emotional health.
Thankfully, Tavernier is also a visually inventive filmmaker as well as a sharp and intellectual one, and only he can be counted on to apply a gorgeous widescreen, Panavision lens to this character piece and move his camera over large vistas of the beautiful city of Lyon without sacrificing the feeling of intimacy that the plot demands.
Cannes Film Festival: Competition Selection 1980.