Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Little Bedroom: Nurse-Patient Commiseration

Crusty old Edmond Berthoud is reaching the point when his natural cantankerousness can no longer compensate for his failing body. Nevertheless, he wages a cold war against his grown son and the Swiss visiting nurse service, but reaches an unexpected détente with his newest care-giver. Perhaps because she has plenty of her own issues, the nurse and her charge develop genuine empathy for each other in Stéphanie Chuat & Véronique Reymond’s The Little Bedroom (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Berthoud hardly knows his grown son Jacques’ American fiancée and likes her even less. He is not exactly devastated by Jacques’ impending move to Chicago, but all the resulting fussing about becomes a considerable annoyance. As usual, he tries to take it out on his new nurse, Rose, but she has more gumption than her predecessors.

On paper, Berthoud would appear to be a terrible assignment for Rose’s return to work, following the still birth of her baby. She is still not over it, as her husband Marc can tell only too plainly. Eventually, the frustrated Marc will temporarily move out and the recently hospitalized Berthoud will move in, in defiance of patient protocol and without the knowledge or consent of his son. However, his decision to sleep in the eerily preserved children’s room rather throws the still grieving healthcare professional for a loop.

Bedroom is a very nice little movie that never gets excessively saccharine or simplistically pat. Chuat & Reymond’s screenplay shows a sensitive understanding of life’s messiness, but it can be a bit pedestrian at times.

Regardless, veteran French screen actor Michel Bouquet puts on a clinic as Berthoud. Flinty yet vulnerable beneath all the gruffness, he subverts all expectations of cutesy senior citizens borne out of films like Marigold Hotel. He doesn’t do quirky, but he develops some realistic chemistry with Florence Loiret Caille’s Rose. Their relationship might be short-lived, but it feels lived-in. Loiret Caille also goes all in as the faithful nurse, looking like the personification of a migraine.

Bedroom is a small film that treads down a rather well worn path, but (metaphor alert) it does so quite sure-footedly. It is not essential, but fans of French language cinema will appreciate the finely wrought work of Bouquet (Pierre-Auguste Renoir in Bourdos’s Renoir and Scrooge in a mid 1980s French television Christmas Carol, among scores of other screen credits). Respectfully recommended, The Little Bedroom opens this Friday (9/26) in New York at the Cinema Village.