We used to learn French at school in Australia, but I don’t think anyone paid much attention. It all seemed a long way away and pretty irrelevant to the daily life of a 15-year-old in Melbourne.
If I’d known then that I’d end up marrying a Brit and living over here, just a short hop over (or under) the Channel from France, I might have tried a little harder.
It’s frustrating not being able to have a conversation with a shop assistant in France (albeit most of them seem to be able to speak enough English to make me feel inadequate) and a bit embarrassing that my six-year-old daughter already has a wider vocabulary than her mother.
Not that it stops me enjoying the occasional trip to Paris to seek retail inspiration or the occasional French film.
(The great thing about sub-titles is that you’re not even conscious of reading them after a while, so at the end of a film you almost believe that you’ve understood every word…)
Anyway, I suspect that I didn’t suddenly become fluent in French in the middle of The Grocer’s Son, but I enjoyed it very much nevertheless.
It’s quite a French film, painted on a small canvas but about universal themes. In this instance, a 30-year-old slacker reluctantly returns from Paris to his Provencal home to take over his sick father’s grocer’s van.
Initially, he’s exasperated by his mainly elderly clientele and the mundanity of life in the countryside but - helped by Claire, the widowed neighbour he has persuaded to accompany him from Paris - he gradually warms to his new life.
It's a gentle, very likeable film and shot against the beautiful backdrop of the French countryside, but it also has something to say about the rhythms of rural life and indeed the dignity of work.