My Favorite Season (French: Ma saison préférée) is a 1993 French drama film directed by André Téchiné, co-written by Téchiné and Pascal Bonitzer, and starring Catherine Deneuve, Daniel Auteuil, and Marthe Villalonga. The story concerns two middle age siblings, a brother and sister, who resume their fragile relationship when they are forced to care for their ailing mother. It won the award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1996 Boston Society of Film Critics Awards.
Berthe, an elderly widow, is forced by her declining health to close the French farmhouse where she has spent much of her life. She moves in with her daughter Émilie and son in law Bruno who share a legal practice and have two grown up children: Anne, a law university student, and Lucien, who was adopted. In spite of Émilie’s efforts, Berthe is not happy in her daughter’s bourgeois home in Blagnac. She sits by the swimming pool in the middle of the night talking to herself and finds the house pretentious. Worried about her mother's physical and mental health, Émilie pays a visit to her unmarried younger brother, Antoine, a neurosurgeon. They have not seen each other for three years, since they quarreled at their father’s funeral. Émilie informs Antoine of their mother's condition and invites him to a Christmas dinner with the entire family.
On Christmas Eve, Antoine arrives at his sister's home when Émilie, Bruno and their daughter are leaving for midnight mass. The neurotic Antoine has to remind himself not to be carried away and spoil the evening. As he wanders though the house looking for his mother, Antoine surprises his nephew Lucien, who works at a night club in town, making out with Khadija, Émilie and Bruno’s uninhibited Moroccan secretary who has been invited to spend Christmas with the family. Antoine promises not to tell anything. When he finds his mother's room, Berthe is delighted to see her son, but complains about living with her daughter. She dislikes Bruno, has no affection for the grandchildren and does not value her daughter’s efforts to make her feel at ease. Dinner is lively, but after the youngsters leave for Lucien’s room, tempers flares between Bruno and Antoine and they end up in a fist fight. Bruno becomes angry; Antoine leaves with a bleeding nose and Berthe departs with her son. Talking later with Bruno, Émilie loathes what they have become. Anne is distraught with the family's dispute and looks to Khadija for solace.
Berthe returns to live alone at her farm but she suffers a stroke. This forces Émilie to visit her brother once again. Antoine has moved to a small apartment in Toulouse. He is glad to learn that Émilie has separated from Bruno. The siblings agree to place their mother in a nursing home as the only viable option. They pick up Berthe and on the drive they remember old times. When Émilie and Antoine sing as they used to when they were children, Berthe cheers up. On a stop during the trip, Antoine fulfills a childhood dream and goes skinny dipping in a river. Berthe introduces her children to the director of the retirement home. She took good care of her children and they are now two very successful professionals who are too busy to take care of her, she says bitterly. Pressured by her brother, Émilie spends a night at Antoine’s apartment. He gives her a pill to help her sleep and joins Khadija and Anne at the bar where Lucien works. Anne has now given up her law studies and works in a music shop. Lucien and Khadija have a rocky relationship. Antonie tries to rekindle the childhood closeness that he enjoyed with his sister.
When Antoine and Émilie visit their mother at the retirement home, Berthe's physical and mental health has visibly deteriorated. She wished she would have had a third child because that child would have taken care of her. Émilie and Antoine remove their mother from the nursing home. An exam at the hospital where Antoine works confirms their suspicion that Berthe is in her final decline. Émilie moves back to her house at Blagnac. Antoine breaks into the house to talk to her, and they have an argument. They recriminate each other about their behavior towards their sick mother. Feeling guilty, Antoine makes a halfhearted attempt to commit suicide. He jumps from the balcony of his apartment breaking a leg. Berthe dies alone at the hospital. After the funeral, Antoine, Émilie, Bruno, Lucien, Anne and Khadija meet at the house in Blagnac and have breakfast outdoors. During the conversation Anne asks the others which is their favorite season since she does not have one. At Antoine’s departure Émilie recites a poem which she learned as a song when she was a child. She used to sing that song while waiting at school for the holidays to be reunited with Antoine.
My Favorite Season is based on an original screenplay by director André Téchiné that he and the scriptwriter and actor Pascal Bonitzer adapted for the screen. For the main roles Téchiné cast two of the best known French film stars: Catherine Deneuve and Daniel Auteuil. It was their third collaboration having worked together previously in Gérard Pirès's crime drama L'Agression(Act of Aggression) (1975) and Claude Lelouch's Us Two(À nous deux) (1979 ). In smaller roles: Chiara Mastroianni, daughter of Catherine Deneuve and Marcelo Mastroianni, and Carmen Chaplin, a grand daughter of Charlie Chaplin, made their film debut. Principal shooting took place in the southern French city of Toulouse and in the department of Haute-Garonne.
My Favorite Season premiered on 14 May 1993 as the opening film at the 46th Cannes Film Festival. With 1.1 million tickets sold, it remains Téchiné’s biggest box office success in France. The film was initially unable to acquire an American distributor and it was released in the United States only three years later, following the modest art-house success of Téchiné's subsequent effort, Wild Reeds. It made $760,865 at the American box office, a respectable amount for a foreign language art film.
The film received generally good reviews. It is widely considered, with Wild Reeds and Thieves, among Téchiné's best films. Review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes reports that 92% of 12 critics gave the film a positive review.
Roger Ebert from the Chicago Sun-Times called My Favorite season "One of those intriguing films that functions without a plot, and uses instead an intense curiosity about its characters". In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin commented that the film "finds the director probing believable troubles with honesty, intelligence and tact...Téchiné echoes the emotional fearlessness of a Bergman or Cassavetes in trying to capture the difficult, unruly essence of his characters' inner lives." She called the film an "intense, moving story of loss and renewal". Online film critic, James Berardinelli praised the film commenting that "For those who enjoy rich, complex character dramas, the arrival of My Favorite Season is a cause for celebration. Edward Gutmann from the San Francisco Chronicle praised the look of the film. Lisa Schwarzbaum from Entertainment Weekly called My favorite season " a mature and pensive film". While in a disagreeing note Todd McCarthy in Variety found the exposition of the plot " dull".
Awards and nominations
- Boston Film Critics (USA)
- Won: Best Foreign Language Film
- Cannes Film Festival (France)
- César Awards (France)
- Nominated: Best Actor – Leading Role (Daniel Auteuil)
- Nominated: Best Actress – Leading Role (Catherine Deneuve)
- Nominated: Best Actress – Supporting Role (Marthe Villalonga)
- Nominated: Best Director (André Téchiné)
- Nominated: Best Film
- Nominated: Best Writing (Pascal Bonitzer and André Téchiné)
- Nominated: Most Promising Actress (Chiara Mastroianni)
- Gramado Film Festival (Brazil)
- Marshall, Bill. André Téchiné. Manchester University Press, 2007, ISBN 0-7190-5831-7
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