Antoine Sforza, a thirty-year-old young man, left his village ten years before in order to start a new life in the big city, but now that his father, a traveling grocer, is in hospital after a stroke, he more or less reluctantly accepts to come back to replace him in his daily rounds.
The Grocer’s Son, or Le Fils de l’épicier to give it its native title, is a film that deals with relationships; more specifically the relationships between the protagonist, Antoine, and his family, friends and even his customers. The classic tale of the prodigal son is used to create a feel-good story that can’t help but make you smile.
Antoine Sforza (Nicolas Cazalé) returns home to Provence after a ten-year absence when his father has a near-fatal heart attack. He brings with him his friend and romantic interest Claire (Clotilde Hesme) so that she can study for her university entrance exams in peace and quiet. Antoine is tasked with running the failing family business which means him dealing elderly customers, a task which he, at first, resents. However, as the story progresses, Claire helps Antoine to become a much more affable grocer, even striking up unlikely friendships with some of his more cantankerous customers. The film’s most intriguing relationship is between a father and son; Antoine’s father has practically disowned him after he left the family business ten years prior but, as Antoine grows into his role as the rural grocer, you begin to wonder if a possible reconciliation is on the cards.
Director Eric Guirado’s roots in documentary filmmaking are clearly visible in The Grocer’s Son, the film’s realism undoubtedly adds to the engaging nature of the characters. Antoine himself is portrayed as a cold and distant lead at the start of the film but Nicolas Cazalé’s performance gradually becomes more and more likable as his sombre appearance is replaced by a much more friendly demeanour. The film also contains some stunning visuals of the Provence landscape that are made all the more impressive by the cinematography. One of the films central themes is without a doubt the contrast between the idyllic French countryside and the demanding nature of living in Paris. The battle between the local grocer and the mainstream supermarket represents a larger conflict between the rural lifestyle and the spread of urbanisation that would surely impinge on the peaceful villages shown in the film.
Whilst the story of Antoine may be the key element to the film, it sometimes feels as if other plot threads are sacrificed in order to allow Antoine’s story to develop. For example Antoine’s brother François and his battle with depression is brushed aside in order to make way for the film’s finale. Nevertheless, The Grocer’s Son is still a moving film that not only delivers an enjoyable story but also makes you want to spend your next holiday in Provence.