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Make time for 'The Well-Digger's Daughter'

Posted 2:53pm on Thursday, Nov. 01, 2012

Unrated (mature themes); 105 min.

This French romance is so fine that enthusiastic word of mouth should soon persuade people put off by the lackluster title. It's classical moviemaking of a sort rarely seen now, a love story of surprising joy with rounded, flawed but humane characters.

At the start of World War I, the young village beauty, Patricia (stunning Astrid Berges-Frisbey), reaches the age where her gruff, warm papa (Daniel Auteuil) hopes to marry her off. The well-digger's good-hearted assistant, Felipe (Kad Merad), humbly courts her, little suspecting that her heart belongs to wellborn Jacques (Nicholas Duvauchelle). But the gentleman pilot and the rural girl belong to circles whose edges are not allowed to overlap. Jacques and Felipe leave for the war, with Patricia worrying over issues of death (and birth) on the home front.

The standard crises arrive on cue, but the film embraces their corny predictability and sweeps us along happily. Auteuil, an effortlessly engaging actor, fills his directing debut with wonderful performers. Even when his characters are selfish or pigheaded, it's hard to dislike them, and the light melodrama passes like an errant cloud on a sunny afternoon. The film is set in glorious Provence, but it exists in a magical land where everything goes right, for the characters, the filmmakers and the audience.

Exclusive: Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

-- Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

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