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APRÈS VOUS (R) (2005)

Paramount Classics

Official Site

Director: Pierre Salvadori

Producer: Philippe Martin

Written by: Pierre Salvadori, Benoit Graffin, David Leotard

Cast: Daniel Auteuil, José Garcia, Sandrine Kiberlain, Marilyne Canto


Nobody makes romantic farces quite like the French. For decades they have perfected the art of mistaken identity and ensuing comic crisis. Après Vous (After You), a popular hit in France, is Pierre Salvadori’s old-fashioned, odd-couple comedy about a would-be savior, Antoine (Auteuil), who stumbles across a deeply depressed neurotic named Louis (Garcia) who is attempting to hang himself from a tree. Antoine, ever the Good Samaritan, rescues the man from tragedy, but Louis has too many other things on his mind to be grateful. It turns out that Louis has been dumped by his girlfriend Blanche, the love of his life (played by Kiberlain), and without her, life is no longer worth living. The world seems to be collapsing in on him, and he just wants to die.

But Antoine is conscientious to a fault, and feels it is somehow his responsibility to deny himself happiness while he tries to save Louis from certain death. So he invites the suicidal Louis to stay in his home, initially telling his girlfriend Christine (Canto) that Louis is a visiting cousin from out of town. But it doesn’t take long for the girlfriend to realize that Louis is a stranger whom Antoine picked up in a moment of desperate charity. Less-than-impressed, Christine soon realizes that Antoine cares more about making Louis happy than he does about her, which inevitably leads to Antoine getting dumped in dramatic fashion.

Poor Antoine. He does the right thing at every turn and his life becomes increasingly complicated and problematic as a result. His extreme measures to save Louis’s life become increasingly desperate, and much of the action occurs at the brasserie, Chez Jean, where Antoine enjoys his job as maitre’d. Somehow he convinces Louis to apply for the job of sommelier; the scene in which Garcia ineptly auditions for the position is one of the film’s funniest. Of course, Louis is utterly clueless about wine. But remarkably he lands the job and quickly proceeds to make an absolute fool out of himself, horrifying the brasserie’s owner, who is ready to fire him after the first day because, as she says, “There’s more wine on the tablecloths than in the glasses!”

Somehow through the course of events, Antoine is able to locate Blanche, the woman who left Louis in his current state of bereavement. He poses incognito in the local florist’s shop where Blanche works, trying to find a way to reunite the two parted lovers. What he discovers is that Blanche is engaged to another man, a ne’er-do-well who cheats on her. To complicate matters even further, Antoine begins to realize that he is falling in love with Blanche, which plunges him into a confused depression and sets off a chain of comic crises. Of course, Blanche doesn't realize that Antoine and Louis know each other. Inevitably this leads to a scene in which she makes the discovery and confronts the betrayal, but surprisingly this leads to a refreshingly unpredictable conclusion.

The actors bring genuine pathos and range to roles that heighten the drama inherent in a story about lost love, attempted suicide, and betrayal. Heavy themes indeed, but Salvadori and his gifted team of actors, particularly Auteuil and Garcia, keep you smiling. Auteuil is primarily known as one of France’s most gifted dramatic actors; here he distinguishes himself as a deft comedian, playing brilliantly opposite the goofy, sad-eyed Garcia.

Occasionally the narrative is overtly silly, filled with too many coincidences to be taken seriously. But thankfully these moments are few. The felicity of the film’s message and its bouncy tunes keep the tone whimsical, but ultimately it is a touching story about kindness, selflessness, and how remarkable twists of fate can occur so quickly and unexpectedly, forever changing our lives.

—Tiffany Crouch Bartlett

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