It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The French phrase "c'est la vie" always seems to come attached to a kind of bittersweet shrug, as if to say that life is rotten but we love it anyway. And that is the mood evoked by Diane Kurys' "C'est la Vie," a story told from the point of view of a young girl whose parents seem headed for a painful divorce. In American hands this material would become a bitter docudrama, but Kurys somehow seems able to bathe the pain in nostalgia.
The movie takes place during the summer of 1958, when the mother, Lena (Nathalie Baye), sends her two girls, Frederique and Sophie, to a seaside resort with a nanny. The parents remain behind in the city, and there are ominous signs that all is not happy between them. At the beach resort, they move into a quirky little rental cottage not far from their mother's half-sister (Zabou), whose husband is a jolly, extroverted type.
The story is told from the point of view of Lena's older daughter, Frederique (Julie Bataille), a practical joker who loves to torture the nanny, and whose favorite recreation is feeding laxatives to the landlord's goldfish. Summer develops in the usual way - sand castles and sunburn, friendships and fights - and then Lena, the mother, arrives.
What eventually becomes clear is that Lena has not arrived at the resort alone. A young man named Jean-Claude (Vincent London) hangs about, and we discover that he is Lena's lover, an artist. They meet for quick and passionate couplings on the beach, and one night Frederique, up late, sees the man bring her mother home and kiss her in the moonlight.