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aka - Dialogue Avec Mon Jardinier
France 2006
Directed by
Jean Becker
110 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
4 stars

Conversations With My Gardener

Synopsis: A painter (Daniel Auteuil) who has been living the successful artist’s life in Paris returns alone to his family home in the country. To help him renovate the overgrown garden he advertises for a workman, (Jean-Pierre Daroussin), who by chance turns out to be an old school friend he hasn’t seen for years. As their friendship develops they dub each other Gardener and Dauber and together they share a journey in which the simple things of life are seen afresh and rediscovered.

If you’re looking for major action and convoluted plot lines steer well clear of this film. But if you enjoy a gentle and touching film about the true meaning of friendship and gaining a fresh appreciation of life, then this is for you. The film hinges upon the time the two men spend together, talking about their lives, their relationships, and their world views. Gardener is a man who has led a fairly ordinary life, married to the one woman for 25 years and taking the same seaside holiday each year. A homespun philosopher, his main joy in life is to grow his flowers and vegetables and he takes a very pragmatic approach to all things.. Dauber however, is a more volatile man, on the tail end of a marriage which has been damaged by his indiscretions and his self-centred behaviour. His wife, Helene (Fanny Contencon), wants a divorce but Dauber still loves her, despite his having an affair with Magda (Alexia Barlier), a much younger woman. In many ways he is quite immature, but in the rural getaway once belonging to his parents he discovers much about both them and himself, as well as learning a new respect for the more modest things in life.

It is refreshing to see a film like this which can completely captivate simply by its marvellous performances and the truthfulness it conjures up. Much of it is shot on the property where Dauber lives but at times it forays into Paris where in one winning scene in which Dauber goes to an art show and meets with a highly pretentious art-snob he finds himself drawing upon something he has learned from Gardener in order to to cut the man down to size.

The easy camaraderie between the two characters is something to be revelled in and these two fine French actors are superb in their roles. Daroussin captures in his character a very beautiful and possibly rare quality – a simplicity and honesty that ultimately translate to “goodness”.  Auteuil brings a subtlety and empathy to this role, allowing us to experience with him the changes he undergoes as a result of this friendship.

Conversations With My Gardener is one of those films where so little happens and yet it affects us so much because it gets to us at that subliminal level of knowing that we are sharing something really special in this relationship. And when in fact there is a change to the pace of the plot with certain developments, it feels like a bomb has gone off.




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