Conversations with My Gardener

Yes, this is a movie that consists mostly of two middle-aged men standing in a sun-dappled garden talking about their lives and their vegetables. And yes, it involves a working-class man of honor imparting life lessons to a middle-class man of leisure. But don’t worry. It’s French. That makes all the difference. A Parisian painter with a failing marriage inherits his parents’ country house and discovers that the fellow he’s hired to tend the neglected garden was a grade-school classmate. Gentle, Gallic male bonding ensues, with non-patronizing fondness for the bourgeois and the provincial alike. And if female characters tend to get marginalized into secondary status, it doesn’t mean they don’t register. The basic substance of the film, adapted from artist Henri Cueco’s memoir by director Jean Becker with Jean Cosmos and Jacques Monnet, is its understated, bittersweet simplicity. It’s beautifully acted by Daniel Auteuil as the painter and Jean-Pierre Darroussin as the gardener, and beautifully shot by Jean-Marie Drejou.

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