Credit: UGC Films
Screening at the San Francisco Alliance Française this week, Bruno Podalydes’ The Sweet Escape (Comme Un Avion) tells of a middle-aged man who takes himself off on an unusual journey, as an antidote to boredom and an attempt to ‘find himself’.
Described by The Hollywood Reporter as “Feather-light, yet finally profound and packed with both visual ideas and delightful banter”, The Sweet Escape also stars Bruno Podalydes – as Michel, the lead character – and he wrote the screenplay as well.
Michel is a designer at a computer graphics studio. He’s happily married to Rachel (played by Sandrine Kiberlain) is obsessed by old-style postal planes – to the extent of having pictures and models of these aircraft all over their home – but he also realizes that he needs to do something different to help him deal with the challenges which middle age throws up.
Michel doesn’t plan on doing anything dramatic to cope with his restlessness, he simply longs to take off in one of these planes and fly wherever he pleases. When – as a birthday surprise – his friends arrange a surprise gift of a three-hour plane ride for him, Rachel realizes that that’s not what Michel wants at all. He wants the freedom to make his own decisions about when and where he goes, and since he doesn’t have a pilot’s licence, she encourages him to buy a wooden kayak on which he’s set his heart. He’s chosen a kayak because its wooden frame is the nearest he can get to the wing of an old fashioned plane, and, he reasons, it’ll give him the opportunity to indulge his desire to get away from it all. Michel duly orders the flat-pack kayak, assembles it, and heads off for the waterways of Burgundy and the nearby Centre-Val de Loire.
He eventually finds himself at a tavern in the forest, which is run by a widow Laeticia (Agnes Jaoui) and her young helper, Mila (Vimala Pons), where Michel discovers a group of people who are warm and appealing, and a pace of life that suits him very well, so well in fact that every time he leaves the tavern to continue his journey, he finds himself returning. The two women are in no small measure an attractive reason for his inability to depart for very long.
Although there isn’t any action of major consequence in the film, it does, says The Hollywood Reporter, demonstrate “Podalydes’s brilliant command of tone”, going on to say that “The surface actions are grounded by an underlying melancholy that suggests that even something as seemingly straightforward as happiness can be a profound and complex emotion”.
The List describes it as “a charming French midlife crisis film …. Low-key, unassuming but immensely engaging”.
The Sweet Escape is the Tuesday movie at the San Francisco Alliance Française, 1345 Bush Street, on July 12 at 7.00 pm. Admission is free, but a $5 donation is suggested.
The Sweet Escape (Comme Un Avion)