We'll End Up Together (M)
In 2010, Little White Lies was an ensemble piece about a group of friends who decided to go ahead with their reunion even though one of their number had been critically injured in a motorbike accident. The bittersweet comedy about friendship hit the spot, and became a big hit in France and abroad.
We'll End Up Together is the follow-up to that film, picking up the story, not where it left off, but some years later. Partners have changed or left, children have arrived on the scene, aspirations have adjusted and fortunes fluctuated.
Max (the very dependable Francois Cluzet), who has a holiday home on Cap Ferret, a spit of land on the French Atlantic coast, is once again the host, only he doesn't know it this time. His friends arrive to spring a surprise 60th birthday party on him.
But Max is in the doldrums. His restaurant business has floundered, his marriage is over and he must now sell his holiday home at the trendy resort area. The surprise is neither nice nor inconvenient, because Max is on the point of selling up.
Well that's too bad, I hear you thinking. And well you might, during the string of social and environmental upheavals that have marked 2020.
Max isn't the most sympatico of people. More on the dour side. A wet blanket who puts the fire out while his friends are dancing because it's time for him to go to bed. One wonders how he has actually kept the friends who have showed up. Then again, it has been seven years since they saw him last.
However, it's not just about Max. It's about friendship, the kind that lasts.
All of the returning characters are played by the same actors as before and there are several newcomers.
Eric (Gilles Lellouche), who has become an established and successful actor, arrives with his baby daughter and a hilariously belligerent nanny, but, crucially, without his wife. She might be dropping MDMA in Ibiza, for all he knows.
And life has caught up with a toughened and disillusioned Marie (Marion Cotillard) who was in a partnership with Ludo (Jean Dujardin) at the time he died.
Her son, whom she has a tendency to forget about, is seven.
Vincent (Benoit Magimel), who had a big crush on the resolutely hetero Max in the last film, arrives with his new gay partner.
His former wife, Isabelle (Pascale Arbillot), has blossomed as a single and is into online dating. She is there too, with their son.
Antoine (Laurent Lafitte) is the only one who apparently hasn't much changed, and he remains the butt of most of the jokes, involving koalas, caterpillars, and other ephemera.
It really is a wonder how different Lafitte is from the sinister and controversial character he once played in Elle opposite Isabelle Huppert.
Cluzet had the lead role in Canet's murder mystery of 2006, Tell No One. It was the actor-turned-filmmaker's second feature film and brought his work as director to international attention.
His relationship with Cotillard, with whom he has two children, has earned him some attention too.
It is amusing to read that Canet had to convince his fine ensemble cast to make this second film together. They didn't sign on at first, but sent him back to do a redraft.
The first Little White Lies was compared with The Big Chill, Lawrence Kasdan's classic American film about friends who also reunite over the death of one of their group.
Canet readily admits that he admires it and has referenced it in both of his films.
He has certainly also used some great American pop and rock music on the soundtrack, which I felt intruded on the francophone world.
But the warm and affirming We'll End Up Together engenders a completely different mood to the Kasdan film.
Developing the original Little White Lies was a tough experience for Canet. He wrote it quickly in six weeks, angry that his friends had let him down when he landed in hospital with a life-threatening condition.
It's interesting that We'll End Up Together, a big-hearted film about friendship, can have begun in such a way.