The Well-Digger's Daughter

Daniel Auteuil remakes Marcel Pagnol’s 1940 classic.

“The humanist spirit of Gallic novelist-director Marcel Pagnol is alive and well in the old-fashionedly sincere The Well-Digger's Daughter, a competent remake of Pagnol's eponymous 1940 melodrama about a working-class girl impregnated by a young pilot who's sent off to war. Both versions are imbued with the bucolic charm and the conspicuous lack of villains that is typical of Pagnol's work, with its flawed but honest, deeply human characters.
“In Auteuil's retelling, the war is reduced to a simple patriotic duty. With the benefit of hindsight, the remake also more clearly articulates the changing mores of the mid-20th century, with the well-digger, played by Auteuil in an impressively fleshed-out role, more obviously torn between what he feels is expected and what he feels is right.
“Pascal Amoretti is a proud but poor man based in the rural South of France. To help him raise his many daughters, Amoretti asks his teen offspring, Patricia (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), to return from Paris. Patricia might stand out in the small community with her big-city airs, but she clearly loves her dad and tackles her duties with a smile.
“Dashing pilot Jacques, the son of the village's rich hardware-store owner, is immediately smitten with the newly returned beauty. But Amoretti has already considered giving Patricia away in marriage to his decidedly older employee, Felipe.
“The outbreak of war sends both Felipe and Jacques to the front, though not before Jacques makes his move on Patricia. The remainder of the film, which plays out the consequences of Jacques and Patricia's single sexual encounter, could have yielded an over-the-top melodrama. But Auteuil, who also penned the adaptation, exercises the appropriate restraint, simply observing these people struggle with their day-to-day reality, the expectations of the village and what their hearts tell them is right.
“The father-daughter coupling is the movie's central emotional axis and is never less than convincing. Auteuil gets the lion's share of the at-times lyrical dialogue, while Berges-Frisbey uses her expressive face, often seen in closeup, to suggest that her character doesn't take her decisions lightly.” - Boyd Van Hoeij, Variety


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