My second film at the FFF is a bit like its showing time, 9.50 p.m., a bit dark. It's "Je me suis fait tout petit" (literally, "I make myself all small" or "cut myself down to size). It's the debut film written and directed by a new female French director Cécilia Rouaud, relying heavily on the acting skills of its principal actors/actresses, Denis Ménochet as Yvan Le Doze, Vanessa Paradis as Emmanuelle, Léa Drucker as Ariane, Laurent Lucas as Luc, Louise Grinberg as Elise, Angèle Garnier as Manon, Valérie Karsenti as Claire, David Carvalho-Jorge as Léo. Quite a number of characters! But all having as their emotional centre, the protagonist Yvan, a middle-age middle class French school teacher whose wife Claire ran away with another man to Thailand and now running a French restaurant there but leaving behind a 5 year-old-son Leo, whom she had with the other man. Yvan loved his wife very deeply. Her departure left him devastated, completely enclosed within an extremely hard exterior shell, taciturn, abrupt, tactless and even at times, even brutal. He would now respond to the little gestures of friendliness shown him by his garrulous male colleague Luc, who helped him with his packing great reserve and would react with apparent indifference the advances of an art teacher Emanuelle who accidentally bumped into his bicycle one day and by another coincidence got engaged as a substitute teacher in the Paris school where he was teaching when the former teacher died of old age. He could find emotional release only when he visited the seaside chalet he had in Brittany.
As the film opens, we find him packing things, preparing to leave Paris for good for Brittany and would visit a bar after work just to pass the time. He was lucky to have a sister, Ariane who had agreed to look after his two teenage daughters Manon and Elise, who was studying in the same school that he taught. Both his daughters wanted his attention, one by telling him that she had decided not to use contraceptives because she wanted to have a baby by her deaf-mute boy friend and the other by not doing her home work so she would have to receive as punishment not being permitted to enter her class and would have to sit in the corridor where she knew he would pass through and by distributing pamphlets about animal rights in and outside the school.To add to his troubles, he had to deal with a 12-year old girl in his class who had a crush on him and would leave notes in his locker telling him that she was in love with him. He ignored her and told her she did not know what she was talking about and should stop doing so whereupon she would feign an immediate fainting. But she was as stubborn as he and this led to him being reprimanded by his headmaster who said he had to report such matters to him. He did and had to meet the girls parents as a result of which he got a bruised eye.
Things came to a head when he learned from his sister Ariane, who is full of love and had always wanted a child of her own with her husband Simon who is now living with Yvan's two adolescent daughters and had applied for an adopted child, that she had learned that Claire had left behind a child Leo whom she left with her own sister. After some quick change of mind, Yvan suggested that Ariane should adopt Léo although he was originally opposed to the idea and said she was crazy. She did so. Then he decided that he wanted the child and forcibly took it from her. But he did not know how to deal with the child, who was as absorbed within his own inner world as he was and had to interview one baby sitter after another to be able to do so until his friendly colleague agreed to do so. In the meantime, Emanuelle, who had intimate feelings for him and who told him that he was fighting against himself, continued to encourage him to open himself up and who continued to love him. He took her to his little chalet in Brittany as he did Leo, who both said the place smelled really bad, something which he refused to admit.He only opened himself up when without knowing why he did so, he knocked on her door at 4 or 5 o'clock in the night/morning to tell her he wanted to see her and in the hurry, she closed the door behind her without her key and whilst waiting for the locksmith, she played charade with him.
Then Claire's grandma died and Claire came back with another over-active kid for the funeral. Yvan resigned from the school and drove to his little chalet again, all alone, cleaned up the place and for the first time, he felt relaxed and began to dance to the music of a portable music deck. He had come out of his despair, his anger and his pent up emotions. He decided he was ready to live with his two daughters again together with Leo. The film ends. To me, his chalet in Brittany, close by the sea, is his subconscious, his last emotional refuge, where he could really be himself: run on the beach and breathe the sea air and be rid of the thousand and one trivialities of living in an often cold and impersonal big metropolis like Paris. The story of an emotionally wounded man finally accepting his condition.
The story is not particularly dramatic but the acting is good. I like in particular the quasi-autistic little Léo, Denis too portrays well a man who has such difficulties in expressing all the emotions churning deep within his soul and which makes him so unapproachable. The film is almost like a documentary but is not. Perhaps the director wishes the film to be "se fait petit": low key, land even its humor is so low profile and as unobtrusive as the dumb and unarticulated emotional crisis suffered by Yvan? Is that not why his daughter Manon said she wanted to have a baby by a deaf mute? Is Leo, who would not say a word and would never talk to any one but his rag baby Arlette, his transitional object, not another reflection of Yvan?