An emotionally high-strung French family drama, “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” explores the highs and lows of family life. It delves into those realms of family events that every family commonly experiences, which allows the film to relate to its audiences like it was a chapter from their own lives.
“The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” is made on the same lines as an earlier film, C.R.A.Z.Y, even to the extent of using one of the actors from the former French film. However, director Remi Bezancon has done a wonderful job of balancing the story of a family over a span of 12 years put together in five short days, without creating a confusion of the past and the present.
In the opening credits we see some happy pictures of a family of three children and their parents in the 1970’s and then we move forward ten years to 1988 and are introduced to the Duval family whose lives we are going to explore. Since Bezancon has assigned one day for each of its five main characters, we look into the past and present of every one of them in a 24-hour period. The film begins with the eldest son Albert Duval (Pio Marmai), a cosmetic surgeon, getting ready to move out of his parental home to an apartment of his own. He and his father, Robert Duval (Jacques Gamblin), a taxi driver, have never got on very well with each other, as the competent son threatens his father’s ineptitude.
The reason for this unease is a direct reflection of the father-son relationship that Robert shared with his own father, a wine-loving gentleman (Robert Dumas) who ridicules Robert for being a loser and choosing a lowly profession. Robert’s wife Marie-Jeanne (Zabou Breitman) finds this as a breaking up of familial ties. A hippie in youth, Marie-Jeanne finds it hard to adjust to the feeling of getting old and there is conflict about this between mother and daughter, as the daughter accuses her mother of not letting go of her youth. Marie-Jeanne in order to put aside the dreadful thoughts of aging decides to join college, not knowing what she intends to do there, but the decision is made all the same.
Raphael (Marc-Andre Grondin from C.R.A.Z.Y), the younger son is more like Robert, who identifies with him well, as music becomes a bonding force between father and son. Raphael is aspiring to be a rock star and father and son decide to have Raphael participate in an air-guitar contest while Robert proudly watches his son perform. However, grandfather Duval does not appreciate of his grandson wiling away his time in this manner and he decides to give the boy a few lessons on disciplined and focused thinking and also on wine appreciation. Finally we have the daughter, Fleur (Deborah Francois) who is the youngest of the three children.
Fleur is now a beautiful teenager who has just stepped onto the threshold of exploring her new found sex life. Having already ventured into love, sex and rejection all at the same time, Fleur is cynical about her mother interfering in her personal life and keeping a close watch on her. The bombshell falls when Marie-Jeanne discovers a diary entry by Fleur that divulges Fleur’s secret about her alleged affair and her pregnancy. Thus we see the family struggling with all its problems in a manner that most families would usually adopt and hence the film relates to the common family.
How generation gap has always been a point of conflict among families has been finely elaborated in the movie, which also teaches us that every generation has something new to give and we can learn from them instead of turning hostile to their new ideas. With great performances by the stars and a natural portrayal of family life by talented director Remi Bezancon along with a brilliant soundtrack, “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” is a family drama worth watching. Being able to identify with the Duval family having faced similar situations at home, you feel as if you just walked out of your own home.
Director: Rémi Bezançon
Cast: Jacques Gamblin,Zabou Breitman,Déborah François,Marc-André Grondin,Pio Marmaï,Roger Dumas
Wins: César Awards,Étoiles d’Or
Nominations: César Awards