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Comfort Films: A Good Year

Nina Holguin finds a comfort and reassurance in the naturalistic everyday of life's little things.

A charming British Rom-Com set in the idyllic Provence countryside, what more could you want? Sign me up, sign yourself up, sign everyone up. You might not have heard of this movie before, so I understand I may have to say a bit more than that to get everyone on board. It’s got an IMDB score of 7, and it honestly quite surprised me that people other than my family have enjoyed this movie. I’m not saying it’s bad, but I wouldn’t say it’s high quality either. Yet, there’s something very comforting about that which makes it exceedingly watchable – again, and again.

The story is simple. Max Skinner (Russell Crowe), a rude, arrogant English banker, inherits a large French country estate and vineyard from his uncle, who was his only living relative. While in Provence trying to sell his property, he reminisces on his past and falls in love with life again – and with feisty local Marion Cotillard as Fanny Chenal. There’s a wine subplot in there as well, if that interests you. Nobody is ever going to call that revolutionary writing, but it’s gently and nicely done. All the characters are, well, characters – charming caricatures of people you may already know in your life with funny deliveries and quotable one-liners. Even the name of Madam Duflot brings a smile to my face. The romance between Max and Fanny is cute and thankfully not as questionable as many other Rom-Coms made in the early 2000s; I watched Coyote Ugly again recently. Eek. A Good Year may not be revolutionary but it’s a well-made movie. 

My Dad secretly loves the film, much to the family’s delight. Whenever we tease him, he always retorts “I just like the setting!” And it’s true, one of the major highlights of the movie is the naturally gorgeous climate and views of Provence. It’s so inviting: the delicate sunrays through the grape vines, the bustling evening town squares and the dusty old chateau. Every time I watch it, I smell the sun cream and pool chlorine as I think back to holidays and summers past. I think this is what the movie does particularly well. It romanticises life; life that is simple and appreciates all the good in the world. Not of capitalism and money-makers but of the company of others. It is so simple that you can project your own experiences onto the narrative and relate to a movie you might otherwise have nothing to do with. The movie encourages you to reminisce your own life, to think back to when life was nice and full of good food – a time with human contact as well. 

I always enjoy a bit of gentle French-British rivalry, which the film celebrates. There’s a tennis match between ‘Fred Perry’ and ‘René Lacoste’ – otherwise known as Max and his groundskeeper. The soundtrack is perfect mix of French oldies and relaxing English tunes that allow a British girl like me to fit seamlessly into a foreign place. The culture clash can always squeeze a grin out me; the French roads, their confusing road signs and home cuisine certainly have caused personal funny incidents for myself. But, again, it’s nice to be reminded that we are also all the same – oh how very soppy. 

Covid-19 has certainly shaken up the world. We don’t know whether our normal lives will return, or what this ‘new’ normal might be like. However, films like A Good Year give us hope for the future. They remind us of what life was like and can be like. It reminds of what our ideals in life should be. Covid-19 may be doing that to us anyway – I really don’t care about anything other than seeing my loved ones right now – but it’s nice to have a pretty reminder that this doesn’t have to end when we get back to normal. Celebrating life’s little things can be our new normal instead. A Good Year is, for me, a feeling. Very cringy, I know, but it is. When I watch it, I feel happy and comforted. I feel reassured that everything is going to be alright. When clouds are grey it brings a smile to my face; I think you get the picture. For me, it’s the perfect feel good movie whatever the circumstances, but at the moment I welcome it more than ever.

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