Among a proliferation of short films, every so often an outstanding gem comes along, making you wish for a long – a VERY long – version of it.
A divorced father prepares his camping vacation by the sea with his young daughter. Stretching his limited financial resources, he is determined to give her the time of her life. He picks her up from her mother’s house, not without a twinge of unreciprocated nostalgia for bygone days. The tender father-daughter bond is quickly re-established. There is nothing in the world he wouldn’t do for his little girl…A common theme in this day and age of broken families, and a heartwarming story of love and trust – but one with an unexpected bittersweet outcome.
Written by Charlotte Brabant and directed by Stratos Gabrielidis, L’Atente is a gentle, playful, and reflective story of quiet contrasts, told with great compassion but also non-judgmental detachment, as if clandestinely sneaking a peek into privileged private moments in the lives and relationship of a father-daughter pair. There is much love but no sentimentality or romanticism… What makes this short film stand out, other than the great sensitivity of its plot, is the exceptional delivery by the two principal actors, Marc Duret as the father, and Amira Brigardis as Lulla, his daughter… a duo with genuine rapport and rare on-screen chemistry. Karine Ambrosio and Françoise Escobar lend their discreet but strong support.
From the moment it was first released, this remarkable French short film has been nominated for awards at short film festivals around France and Europe: Festival Viewster… ANIFEST Shkodra in Albania… Trouville… Brest… Clermont-Ferrand… to name but a few – and it is currently a strong contender at the Malta International Short Film Festival.
Marc Duret (pictured below) needs no introduction. In his 30 year career on screen and stage, he has built up a stellar reputation as one of the leading French-American actors, possessing that rare and magical je-ne-sais-quoi that reaches across time and generations. Top directors around the world, like Luc Besson (Le Grand Bleu, Nikita), Volker Schlöndorff (The Ogre) or Tom Fontana (Borgia), love working with him for his abundant talent, professionalism, and humility but he also enjoys investing his experience into the projects of young creatives whose work he believes in, such as Yann Danh (A Tout Prix), Fabrice Hourlier (Au Nom d’Athènes, 1812 de Feu et de Glace), or in this case, Stratos Gabrielidis aka StrAtos.
Often associated with characters that are complex, even veering to the dark, Marc rarely gets to openly display his emotional and sensitive side, and yet, there it is… in L’Atente, and beautifully, touchingly so! Typical for his style though, rather than dramatically imposing emotions on the public, he evokes them simply by letting the nuanced subtlety of his play speak for itself…. the tenderness in his look, the gentleness in his voice, the delicacy of his touch are quite enough to tell the whole story. His is a commanding presence, and yet, this tycoon of acting also knows exactly how to take himself back, consciously ceding the place in the limelight to his daughter-in-film. His artistic skill is palpable, and yet you sense instinctively that this is not an actor playing his part but a man who is a father himself, with an all-encompassing love for kids, and an unshakeable belief in their future. In his strong arms, the world is a good and safe place for a child, in film as in life.
If playing with someone of Marc Duret’s caliber is a challenge for the best adult actors, imagine what it must mean to a little girl barely old enough to be poking a toe into the industry. And yet, sweet, pretty Amira Brigardis who shines as Lulla, masters her role with a flair and coolness far beyond her young age, without showing any of the precociousness that often marks child actors. There is an innocence, juxtaposed with maturity, to her that betrays highly promising talent, far removed from hours of technical coaching. The bond she has with her film father is real, not make-believe. “She was a great cinema-daughter! Her performance was already a jolly good step in this business!” High praise indeed from Marc Duret for this very fine, special young lady.
Shooting was a memorable experience for Marc. “It was like doing a feature, I truly enjoyed working with this team of great artists and humans. StrAtos and I immediately hit it off, and even though I never met Charlotte Brabant, the writer, just delivering her lines was a treat. I do hope we’ll all work together again in the future,” he recalls. And apart from the recognition at festivals L’Atente has been receiving, the biggest reward for his work came from a critic who would know best: “My seven year old daughter Thia saw the film and told me I was ‘a lovely father’ – that made my day!”
In these times of big dollar production with razzmatazz cinematographic effects and sensationalist scripts, L’Atente is a rare treat… for the eyes and for the soul. It chooses understatement as its premier technique – unpretentious, well-paced storytelling appealing to contrasting emotions, intelligent camera and sound work, and a perfectly cast, convincing pair of principal actors who seamlessly complement each other. And these are exactly this precious short film’s beauty and strength. L’Atente speaks to the audience because we all know how precious and fleeting those moments with your loved one are who you get to spend time with only rarely. We all know a divorced father who moves heaven and hell for his kids, and his pain at having to watch them grow up from a distance. And we all know the quandary you experience when…
A timeless story, and yet more than pertinent for this moment in contemporaneous history. To watch, and re-watch, and re-re-watch.
All photos courtesy L’Atente Facebook page