All Hands on Deck review – fresh and funny French holiday romance

·2 min read

Here is a terrifically fresh, funny and gentle film from director and co-writer Guillaume Brac, which takes quite seriously something that’s always getting dismissed or patronised in pop culture: the holiday romance. The French title is À L’Abordage!, more properly translated as “Attack!” and the film is about seizing the day, going on the offensive and fortune favouring the bold.

Newcomer Eric Nantchouang plays Félix, an easygoing young guy in Paris with a naturally smiley open face; he has a moment with Alma (Asma Messaoudene) and when she says she’s going on holiday with her parents and sister in the beautiful valley of Die in south-eastern France, Félix secretly resolves to go there himself and give her what he is confident will be a wonderful romantic surprise. But he brings along his buddy Chérif (Salif Cissé) for moral support and using a ride-sharing app, they bamboozle nervy young Édouard (Édouard Sulpice) into driving them there in his mum’s car. Soon it becomes clear that Alma has rather complicated feelings about seeing Félix again quite so unexpectedly; meanwhile, Félix and Chérif become mates with uptight Édouard and it seems like self-effacing Chérif has feelings for Héléna (Ana Blagojevic), a single mum he meets at their campsite.

This film feels like a 21st-century version of Éric Rohmer, crossed with something like a photo-love romance and a tiny, weird dab of Carry on Camping. It moves with a deceptively easy swing and, without ever seeming to try very hard, covers an awful lot of narrative ground, bringing in a large cast of characters, letting us get to know them very well and creating plenty of very amusing and engaging scenes. Brac and his co-writer Catherine Paillé, along with their very young cast, have given us a treat.

• All Hands on Deck is released on 4 August on Mubi.

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