Updated: Dec 11, 2021
As the online portion of this year's French Film Festival UK continues, we take a look at another new entry - Christophe Barratier's Fly Me Away (Envole-moi) - which is screening now on the INDEE+ platform.
Fly Me Away tells the story of Marcus (Yoann Eloundou Noah), a 12 year old boy with a congenital condition which overshadows his life. He stops taking his medication, and refuses to listen to his worried mother (Maria-Sonha Condé), which leads him back to the hospital under the watchful eye of his doctor (Gérard Lanvin). Dr. Reinhart is experiencing problems with his own son, Thomas (Victor Belmondo), who has dropped out of university and is living off his father's wealth - spending his evenings in nightclubs and his days in bed. Reinhart has had enough of trying to teach the two of them, so he comes up with the idea of hiring Thomas as Marcus' full-time carer while encouraging him to share his youthful passion for life.
There are some obvious comparisons to Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano's acclaimed film, Intouchables, which starred Omar Sy and François Cluzet, and inspired various adaptations from around the world. Unlike those (generally inferior) remakes, Fly Me Away stands apart thanks to the performances of its tight, well-chosen cast. Victor has the natural charisma and easygoing style of his beloved grand-père, screen legend Jean-Paul Belmondo, and the family resemblance is immediately apparent.
He brings a genuine warmth to the role of Thomas, which makes his acceptance of Marcus, and his gradual transformation, far more believable. Without that, it might have seemed a little too saccharine or forced, but Belmondo manages to sell it and I was certainly buying. I hope that, like his famous grandfather, we get to see him take on other more challenging roles and explore different aspects of his character.
Belmondo is perfectly matched by newcomer Noah, who brings a similarly natural style to his portrayal of Marcus. The two play well off each other, and it makes the growing bond between these wayward sons all the more convincing. By contrast, Condé's dedicated mother provides the ideal foil to Lanvin's emotionally distant father. As a single mother raising her son in the tough suburbs of Paris, she gives everything of herself to him, whereas all Reinhart can offer his son is money.
In presenting Thomas with the opportunity to look after Marcus - under the threat of cutting him off completely - Reinhart gives his son the greatest gift he ever could, and it's one that has the potential to heal their fractured relationship. Rounding out the principal cast is Ornella Fleury, who works tirelessly alongside Dr. Reinhart to look after Marcus and the children at the hospital, while finding little time to really take care of herself. Again, her performance comes across as very natural, which perfectly complements the other players.
The title of the film comes from the popular song Envole-moi, which was released by Jean-Jacques Goldman in 1984, and Fly Me Away is a literal translation. Goldman describes the song as a 'cry for help' from a young man, and there's a wonderful scene in the middle of the film where Thomas and Marcus tackle the song together at a karaoke bar. I love discovering these cheesy French classics, and will definitely be adding Envole-moi to future playlists.
I still remember being introduced to Thierry Hazard's infectious Le jerk at the Glénat Comics party in Angoulême a few years ago, then requesting it at a wedding in France a little while later. The DJ was young and didn't know what I was talking about, but one of the other guests laughed and said I'd probably enjoy Images' Les Démons de minuit as well. Naturally I did, and it's been great to see my love of '80s pop reflected in both English and French.
It would be easy to dismiss Fly Me Away as a simple feel-good film, but what's so wrong with feeling good? Writer-director Barratier has created something which does just that, while more than earning its place among the various entries in this year's online selections for the French Film Festival UK. You can still purchase tickets to stream the film via INDEE+ until the evening of December 12 as part of fff@home.