Take a trip to a small rural village in the north of France. Look a little deeper and we see hard times have fallen on the farmers of Mele-sur-Sarthe. Protests and rallies to swing the spotlight onto their rising production costs and dwindling consumer demand has done little to gain the government’s attention. The mayor and the battered community are at wits end.
Normandy Nude is a delightful and comical tale that sees neighbours overcome petty squabbles, past histories and a community come together – in the most unlikeliest of ways – to fight a higher cause. In fact, this community spirit wins over the viewer, to the point of not knowing if their exposure will move the needle. That part of the story doesn’t matter; it’s the grassroots kindness of friend helping neighbour, shopkeeper helping farmer, that wins the day.
Adorable Francois Cluzet plays mayor Balbuzard, a fatherly yet naive man, who as a fellow farmer knows the plight first hand. After the arrival of an American photographer Newman (Toby Jones), Balbuzard believes he’s been sent an angel who can help raise the awareness of their farming woes. Newman too has an idea for his next project but it will take some selling and lobbying to win over the locals.
That job falls to Balbuzard and over the course of days, we meet and warm to a host of adventures and characters: two neighbours feuding over a generations-ago land grab, a newly-arrived Parisienne (a hilarious François-Xavier Demaison) whose constitution does not agree with the clean country air, and a former beauty queen whose possessive husband nearly does in Balbuzard and Newman.
There is something for everyone here – old traditions versus new methods, the struggle of the small battler taking on a faceless foe, gorgeous landscapes and the simplicity of another life, and what happens when one ventures out of one’s comfort zone.
Director Le Guay worked with locals from the village; that innocence comes through on film and you’ll find yourself urging them on.
Normandy Nude opens nationally at Palace Cinemas on Thursday 29 November 2018.
About Normandy Nude
Director: Philippe Le Guay
Writer(s): Philippe Le Guay, Victoria Bedos, Olivier Dazat
Producer: Anne-Dominique Toussaint
Stars: François Cluzet, Toby Jones, François-Xavier Demaison, Arthur Dupont, Vincent Regan