Gustave Kervern as an unworthy and poetic father


Where Gustave Kervern puts on Viggo Mortensen’s boots. Those of a father who refuses to bend his children to the rules of a modern world that they dislike, in the name of an ideology and the memory of a missing mother.

The comparison between Cigarettes and hot chocolate and Captain fantastic (2016) is an almost inexhaustible source of teaching on the breadth of the Atlantic (the great outdoors against the pavilions, the Puritan spirit against the welfare state …), but it would be unfair to reduce the first film to it. by Sophie Reine. This one is also a dreamy, awkward, but warm comedy.

Gustave Kervern holds with all the lassitude required the role of Denis Patar, a veteran of forgotten fights (the fight against the reform of the universities instituted by Alain Devaquet, for example), that the death of a beloved wife left in charge of two daughters , Janine (Héloïse Dugas), so named in homage to David Bowie, and Mercredi (Fanie Zanini), which owes its importable first name to the day of the singer’s birth. The college girl and the schoolgirl easily bow to the idiosyncrasies of fatherly education, which teaches them individual recovery (they picnic on the shelves of a supermarket) and joyful insubordination.

Poetic accuracy of the gags

Meanwhile, the melancholy widower struggles with his two jobs (day in a garden center, night in a sex shop), at the risk of never being there when his daughters need him. After having been too much to look for the youngest at the police station, Denis Patar receives a visit from a social worker as stiff as he is floating. Camille Cottin is doing very well to give her character, baptized Séverine, the language tics, the agreed gestures specific to her function. The social worker summons the unworthy father to an internship aimed at making him assimilate the foundations of parental responsibility. So far all is well: the originality of the distribution of roles, the poetic accuracy of the gags surprise and make you want to go further in this universe on the border between fantasy and the detailed painting of a social process.

But once the first sessions of the responsible fatherhood internship have passed, Cigarettes and hot chocolate hardly keep in the air all the balls that the scenario has thrown there. On the threshold of satire, the director hesitates, throws halfway through the film a puzzling and upsetting element (a disease) that she neutralizes at the end of the course, leads without too much assurance the idyll that is tied between the representative of family order and its contemptor. The concern for the comfort of the spectator ends up winning over the desire to shake up the orthodoxy of the family film.

Cigarettes and hot chocolate, by Sophie Reine. With Gustave Kervern, Camille Cottin (Fr., 2016, 110 min).