L’étudiante et Monsieur Henri
Director: Ivan Calbérac
Writer: Ivan Calbérac
Based on: his play
Cast: Claude Brasseur, Noémie Schmidt, Frédérique Bel, Guillaume de Tonquédec, Thomas Solivéres
Seen on: 27.7.2016
Constance (Noémie Schmidt) wants to get away from home and study in the big city. For that she needs a very cheap place to stay and finds it in the apartment of the surly Henri (Claude Brasseur). Henri isn’t actually interested in renting his spare room, but his son Paul (Guillaume de Tonquédec) thought it would be a good idea. Henri finally agrees to have Constance stay with him under the condition that Constance will get between Paul and his wife Valérie (Frédérique Bel) whom Henri likes even less than Paul. Constance isn’t particularly taken with the idea, but since her only other choice is going back to live with her parents, she agrees nevertheless.
L’étudiante et Monsieur Henri is a nice film that isn’t exactly great or revolutionary, but it works just fine nevertheless, although not everything as easily as it could have.
This is not the first film where a young girl comes into the life of an old(er) man and rejuvenates him or teaches him to live or whatever. In this case, things were made bearable by the fact that both Henri and Constance learn from each other and make each other better. Well, more or less. There is still the unsavory fact that Henri basically forces Constance into sex work – and the film doesn’t seem to realize the gravity of Henri’s actions. They don’t even linger very much on Constance’s doscomfort with the situation.
This aside – and your ability to put this aside is probably the biggest prerequisite to enjoy the film – the film is nice enough, although it really doesn’t come with a whole lot of insight we haven’t heard a hundred times before. It also doesn’t come with a lot of plot we haven’t seen much before, although I did appreciate the ending that wasn’t as cheesily happy as I expected.
Hands down the best thing about the film, thouhg, is Valérie. She is an amazing character and one we don’t actually get to see that often. She is uptight and bossy, but she’s also obviously caring and trying very hard to connect with Henri and Constance. She is extremely well-meaning, but simply a neurotic personality. Frédérique Bel does a great job with the role as well. I would love to see the Valérie chronicles.
Altogether, L’étudiante et Monsieur Henri is a nice way to pass the time and to spend a nice evening when you don’t want to think too hard or engage too much. But there’s simply not all that much to say about it.