My Afternoons With Margueritte (15)

Starring: Gérard Depardieu, Gisèle Casadesus

While it is seldom a hardship to watch Gérard Depardieu in anything, this squib about an unlikely friendship is a nugatory addition to his CV.

Ever more Falstaffian in girth and gait, Depardieu plays a small-town handyman who hides an unhappy childhood beneath his bar-room bluster. In his quieter moments he sits on a park bench alongside fellow pigeon-fancier Margueritte (Gisèle Casadesus), a twinkling old dear who reads to him and encourages a love of words by giving him a dictionary. Plainly he gets from her the affection he never had from his mother, seen in flashback as a bullying witch who called her offspring "a mistake". Despite its references to Camus's The Plague this is a featherweight French fancy, lent a little class by the two leads but not really fooling anyone. The one astonishment is that it's directed by Jean Becker, who back in 1983 made the tense, twisted thriller One Deadly Summer.