Anyone going to the Heart of Hawick tonight expecting a retro evening with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner will be sorely disappointed.
Snow is no longer falling on this particular mountain top in Africa. Or maybe it is. Who knows? More to the point, the weather’s fine in France.
There is a connection to Tanzania, but only as the promise of a holiday, air flights, tickets bought for Michel (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) and Marie Claire (Ariane Ascaride), 30 years married and still in love, after he has been made redundant from the shipyard.
The film is a slow burner.
Just when you think it is about retirement, how to cope, or not, a horrific act occurs in Michel and Marie Claire’s home.
Two men, wearing balaclavas and carrying guns, break into their kitchen, beat them up and scream in their faces, wanting credit cards and pin numbers. The violence is piercing and their lives are altered by it.
When Michel discovers that one of the perpetrators of this shocking crime is a young man from the shipyard who lost his job at the same time as he, his attitude changes, as does that of Marie Claire. They begin to question his motive, why this workmate could conceive of stealing from a loyal trade union official, like Michel.
Slowly, independently, they learn about the thief’s circumstances, abandoned by a father he never knew and a mother who couldn’t care less, trying to support two younger brothers so that they won’t be split up, or taken away by social services.
The film works, it works beautifully, due to strong, natural performances from Ascaride and Darroussin, and writer/director Robert Guediguian’s emotionally honest and unsentimental style. The only false note, for those who suffer cynicism as a medical condition, is that the brothers are ridiculously good looking and well behaved.