French films have the reputation of being extraordinarily dramatic – and many of them are unnecessarily so. However, there are some that are so heart-wrenching, that I couldn’t bear to watch them again. Feel like crying? Grab yourself a box of mouchoirs and enjoy the emotional rollercoaster.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le scaphandre et le papillion) (2007)
Based on a true story, this film recounts the story of a journalist, Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffered a massive stroke that left him with “locked-in syndrome”. The film is based on Bauby’s book of the same name, which he wrote with the help of his speech therapist, who figured out a way for him to communicate by blinking his left eye. A collage of memories, regrets, and fantasies framed by shots of Bauby suffering through his difficult and painful recovery process will make your heart ache.
The film won Julian Schnabel best director at Cannes Film Festival, and won two Golden Globe awards for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Director.
Tu seras mon fils (“You Will Be My Son”) (2011)
A winemaker decides against leaving his vineyard to his son, and instead opts to groom another young man to take over the reins – imagine a Greek tragedy bathed in wine. The hostile, tumultuous relationship between father and son made me uncomfortable the entire time, and made me appreciate the fact that I’m one of five girls and our dad is not a complete jerk like the dad in this film.
The Grocer’s Son (2007)
Another film about fathers and sons and responsibility, this movie follows a young man who moves to the big city only to have to return to his home village to take over the family business when his father lands in the hospital. If you have ever felt guilty for moving away from your family to pursue life away from your hometown, those feeling are almost guaranteed to resurface when you watch this.
Directed by Cedric Klapsich (L’Auberge Espagnol), this film stars Juliette Binoche as a divorced, overworked social worker and Romain Duris as her brother, a cabaret dancer who finds that he has a severe heart condition. Despite her demanding job, she moves to a part-time schedule in order to move in with her brother and take care of him, and they reflect on their lives and love throughout the film. Several storylines intersect between a diverse cast of many different characters, with Paris as the backdrop for this introspective film.