This Is My Aunt
Imagine a filmmaker decides to make a documentary about one of his normal relatives, and you might get The Thorn in the Heart. The filmmaker in this case happens to be Michel Gondry, not known for making conventional films, but this seems like an odd project even for him. The movie is about his aunt, Suzette Gondry, her path in life and her family.
Now retired, Suzette was a teacher constantly on the move, thus allowing her to teach in many schools throughout rural France. But she also has a strained relationship with her son, Jean-Yves, which reached a critical point when her husband passed away years and years ago. The subject contains an inherent level of fascination, if only because if you picked any person and dug into their lives, there are bound to be interesting dramatic nuggets to find. Still, however interesting Suzette's life may be, Michel Gondry doesn't locate anything larger than life, or anything that might appear particularly relevant to his audience; we can recognize the portrait for its intimacy and appreciation of the challenges of a life lived, but it doesn't have any other real pull.
Gondry also doesn't apply much of his trademark homemade visual trickery -- for the most part, the documentary is shot rather normally, interspersed with some home movie clips, and once in a while we glimpse that love of creativity Gondry usually loves to display (a scene with children wearing "invisible" clothes; a scene showing the assembly and running of a makeshift outdoor movie theater; and a scene with the family watching and commenting on some pre-edited footage).
The lingering question, perhaps, is why was this film made? The answer may be as simple as Gondry deciding it was a project that interested him very personally, and he had the resources to pursue it, which is probably enough. However, for the rest of us, The Thorn in the Heart might remain mainly a curiosity.
(Released by Oscilloscope Pictures; not rated by MPAA.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.