Featuring Pio Marmaï, Jonathan Cohen, Noémie Merlant, and Mathieu Amalric, the latest from writer-directors Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano is a puckish comedy about finding a reason for being — even when the world is falling apart.
A Difficult Year
Éric Toledano, Olivier Nakache
The latest from writer-directors Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano (C’est la vie!, TIFF ’17) is a puckish comedy about finding a reason for being — even when the world seems to be falling apart. Featuring winning performances from Pio Marmaï, Jonathan Cohen, Noémie Merlant, and Mathieu Amalric, A Difficult Year is social satire that goes down easy.
When Bruno (Marmaï) and Albert (Cohen) first meet, neither is in a good way. Bruno has just stolen a television, while Albert responds to being evicted with a bumbling suicide attempt. Bruno manages to save this doped-up stranger’s life — only after getting vomited on — and a friendship is born. They have something in common: each suffers an addiction to buying stuff, and both are drowning in debt. They take classes from debt-reduction expert Henri (Amalric), though he, too, has a long record of overspending that threatens to follow him forever.
One day, Bruno and Albert crash a meeting held by a group of activists dedicated to fighting overconsumption. The guys came for free beer, and have zero interest in speeches about climate change or new-agey, energy-boosting hugs… well, maybe they’d like the hugs, especially if they come from the group’s beautiful leader (Merlant), who manages to persuade them to participate in elaborate demonstrations that Bruno hopes will spark a love affair — if he doesn’t get arrested first.
Nakache and Toledano manage to poke fun at their characters while simultaneously honouring them. Above all, A Difficult Year is driven by a belief in people’s fundamental ability to change — and the ability to find beauty in even the bleakest moments.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: themes of suicide