Watching French film “Back to Burgundy” is a slow but pleasant experience to be cherished. While leisurely rolling its three main characters along its loose narrative, the movie gradually exudes charm, humor, and mood, and I like how it takes its time for making us appreciate its good elements under its sunny and crisp atmosphere.
At first, the movie is mainly told through one of its three main characters. When Jean (Pio Marmaï) comes back to his family home for seeing his father after many years of his absence, his younger siblings Juliette (Ana Girardot) and Jérémie (François Civil) warmly greet their older brother at first, but we soon sense the rather awkward relationship between Jean and his younger siblings. Mainly due to his personal conflict with his father, Jean left his family and then had wandered around the world for years without much contact with his family, and he even did not come when his mother died 5 years ago.
Anyway, Jean is willing to help his younger siblings as the harvest season has just begun in their winery. When their father at a nursing home suddenly dies just before their harvest, they are certainly saddened by this unexpected loss, but there are many things to do in their winery right now, and we soon see them working in their vineyard along with their several trusted employees and a bunch of temporary workers hired for the harvest season.
The harvest season turns out to be pretty good, and we observe how those harvested grapes are processed for the following steps of fermentation. As shown from a flashback scene, Jean, Juliette, and Jérémie know well about grapes and wines thanks to the early education received from their parents, but Juliette is more experienced and knowledgeable as a natural expert, and she is ready to produce her own wine although she is not so sure about whether she will be as successful as expected in her first official trial.
After the work schedule for the harvest season is over, everyone in the vineyard/winery goes into a festival mood, and Jean and Juliette come to have some interesting time at a party. Although he has a wife and a son in Australia at present, Jean comes to be attracted a little to a young female temporary worker, and they instantly form a connection as recognizing their tendency to wander around here and there in the world. In case of Juliette, she finds herself drawn to a jolly male temporary worker with whom she clashed over a minor matter a few days ago, and we accordingly get a very funny moment when she subsequently comes to have a little private time with that guy.
When autumn comes, the vineyard looks less green than before, but there are still many things to be done by Jean, Juliette, and Jérémie, and they also have to deal with the imminent business matter involved with their winery. According to their father’s will, they are appointed as the joint owners of their winery, and they are fine with that, but they must pay a considerable amount of inheritance tax as soon as possible. Because they are short of cash now, it looks like they must sell a part of their vineyard, but then they come to clash over how much they should sell.
Now this looks like a typical setup for family melodrama, but the screenplay by director Cédric Klapisch and his co-writers Santiago Amigorena and Jean-Marc Roulot does not hurry itself at all while steadily maintaining its leisurely narrative pacing, and the movie continues to give us small good moments to be savored. For instance, I was tickled by several humorous moments showing Jérémie and his wife’s rather uncomfortable relationship with his parents-in-law, who expect their son-in-law to take over their own family business someday. I observed the seasonal changes in the vineyard with interest and curiosity, and I was also touched by a poignant scene where Jean comes to learn more about how much his father cared about him despite their estranged relationship.
During its last part, the movie drags a little as becoming more predictable than before, but it remains buoyed by its amiable atmosphere. When winter goes and then spring eventually comes, the vineyard comes to look greener than before, and there comes a hope for new beginning for everyone including Jean, who, not so surprisingly, comes to learn about the importance of family and realize how important his wife and son are to him in the end.
The cast members of the movie are all enjoyable in their likeable performance. While Pio Marmaï humbly holds the middle position, Ana Girardot and François Civil are equally fine in their respective roles, and they and Marmaï are effortless in their interactions on the screen. Right from their first scene, we can sense a long history of life among their characters, and that is the main reason why it is always engaging to watch their characters’ small ups and downs along the story. In case of supporting performers, Jean-Marc Roulot provides a stable counterpoint as a seasoned employee, and María Valverde and Yamée Couture hold each own small place at the fringe of the story as two different spouse characters.
On the whole, “Back to Burgundy” is a mild but fairly charming and entertaining family drama decorated with nice mood and lovely sceneries, and I certainly felt refreshed a lot after watching it. It may be a little too slow for some of you, but you will not be disappointed once you give it a chance, and you may want to sip a glass of vintage wine when it is over.