Even though I didn't think this film was that good, I was completely set on fire by its cultural aspects. As I say in the review, The First Day of the Rest of Your Life is teeming with American cultural references. There are two sequences where characters quote from Hollywood films, but not in English, in French, from the dub.
I am now almost a term into my MA in History of Film and Visual Media at Birkbeck. So far, I have assumed that my research project would continue the work on translation theory that I have previously done in a literary field, but instead focusing on filmic translation - namely subtitling and dubbing. Seeing this film, especially with its display of dubbing and cultural markers, has given me quite a lot to think on - and probably a direction to pursue.
The First Day of the Rest of Your Life (Le premier jour du reste de ta vie) is an award-winning, French family comedy-drama with a twist. Attempting to defy formula, writer-director Rémi Bezançon has structured the film in a chapter-like fashion, with each segment corresponding to five different days over a twelve year period, charting the lives of the 5-strong Duval family. Running with the title concept, each chapter relates to a different integral moment in the characters lives - be it eldest son Albert's (Pio Marmaï) moving away from home, or daughter Fleur's (Déborah François) sixteenth birthday - while navigating the poles of melodrama and nostalgia that seem endemic to the genre.
While the film has a pleasant, easy charm, the whole project gives off a sense of the contrived. Moments of levity and comedy can often be sickly sweet, moments of trauma are sudden and heavy-handed, and emotions are always foregrounded, seemingly without regard for the logic of character interiority. This makes the characters feel a little schizophrenic, and their world feels squeaky clean, even a little claustrophobic - with the polished, wistful cuddliness of a Richard Curtis film. Although, the broad canvas gives Bezançon the opportunity to bring up plenty of key family moments, that are picked and presented for maximum sentimentalism - with the death of a family dog being the starting point for a collective lifetime of loves, deaths and relationships.
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