It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
And now here we are back again in the hills of Provence, in the second of two remarkable memory-films based on the childhood of the great French writer Marcel Pagnol. If you have seen "My Father's Glory," the first of the films, these places will be familiar to you, along with some of the people and all of the feelings of Marcel, the young narrator, who has grown a year older and is now aware that there are girls in the world, in addition to hills and valleys and caves and eagles.
"My Mother's Castle" begins where "My Father's Glory" ended, after a brief look back. (It is best to see the films in order, even though this one is complete in itself.) The effect of the two films is a long, slow, subtle buildup to the enormous emotional payoff at the end of the second film, a moment when gratitude and regret come flowing into the heart of the narrator.
The time is the earlier decades of this century. The hero, Marcel, is now 13 or 14. His father is a schoolteacher, much admired, and his mother is a sweet and loving woman who is still quite young and girlish, although she does not seem that way, of course, to her son. The family had been going every summer and during holidays to the countryside of Provence, and now old friends greet Marcel, including Lili, the local boy who taught him the ways of the countryside. But Lili is no longer the center of the universe; that position is soon taken by an imperious young lady who has read, perhaps, too many historical romances, and treats Marcel as her vassal.
The central set-piece of the movie involves the journey the family members must make to get to their summer cottage. The legal way is long and tiring, involving a walk that circles several great estates. There is a shortcut that reduces the walk by four-fifths, but it involves walking along the canal-path that cuts through the estates, not only trespassing but also somehow getting through the locked gates as the path crosses each property line.