1990, PG, 105 min. Directed by Bertrand Tavernier. Starring Dirk Bogarde, Jane Birkin, Odette Laure.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., June 14, 1991
The sweetness of life is very perishable. This is the kind of stuff that makes up Daddy Nostalgia. No big revelations here. Just little truths, pieces of the big picture, pieces of the sweetness of life. Caroline (Birkin) receives a phone call telling her that her father is seriously ill and rushes off to the south of France to be with her dashing English father (Bogarde) and reserved French mother (Laure). During the weeks she spends there while her father convalesces, Caroline and her father forge a belated intimacy. Daddy had always put business and personal pleasure ahead of family involvements but now their time together involves shared revelations and mischievous indulgences like forbidden alcohol and exhausting day trips. They develop a closeness and an understanding that never glosses over the inadequacies of their relationship. It's a love borne of knowing the other for all that he or she may be, may have been, would have been, could have been and will become. It's a love deepened by the cold embrace of mortality, by the familiarity of gestures and shared knowledge. Tavernier (Round Midnight, Life and Nothing But, Coup de Torchon) directs this little drama with a delicate touch that notices all the nuances and contradictions in familial relations. He captures the undiscussed meanings in Daddy's use of English with his daughter and French with his wife. Or the difference between a wife saying “Come to bed” as a lover would and “Go to bed” as a concerned nursemaid would. The little things. The little hurts. The little pleasures. The script is by Tavernier's ex-wife Colo Tavernier O'Hagan (Story of Women) and is surely filled with lots of personal moments. Birkin and Laure are terrific as the mother and daughter but the real showstopper here is Bogarde, who returns from a long hiatus from film acting. His characterization of the Daddy is so rich with his dreams, remembrances, unyieldingness, compassion, selfishness and reconciliation. The true wonder of Daddy Nostalgia is how it's able to conduct itself at such an intensely intimate level without ever resorting to sentimentality or mawkishness. Yes, the sweetness of life is very perishable. No regrets on this score; just the facts, daddy dearest