The Day I Saw Your Heart (Et Soudain Tout le Monde Me Manque) is a charming little film that has all the right ingredients but lacks that certain je ne sais quoi to make it a great movie.
Director Jennifer Devoldère is the French version of American director Nancy Meyers. They both aspire to make more meaningful than average rom-coms, assemble stellar casts, and it always seems the soufflé falls flat.
The cast is full of rising French starts, most Americans will recognize lead Mélanie Laurent from Inglorious Basterds. She plays the daughter of comedy icon Michel Blanc.
Laurent plays Justine, a frustrated thirtysomething, trying to find her way in life. Her sister, Dom (short for Dominique, Florence Loiret Caille) a has given up on IVF treatments and is in the process of adopting a child with her fey husband Bertrand (Sébastien Castro).
Ironically, their step-mother has pursued IVF abroad and is pregnant; their sixty-something dad is going to have a baby. This upsets Justine because she’s full of resentment; she believes her father lacked essential parenting skills and favored her sister.
Blanc’s character is Jewish, and the best parts of the movie are the original Jewish jokes. When Justine berates him for criticizing art she created as a three year old, he justifies his negative remarks by saying it was his “job to prepare her for a life of disillusionment.”
The French title of this movie is not a direct translation, it literally means “And suddenly everyone misses me.” This is a line Blanc says on the golf course, believing the distance he’s kept from his family makes him feel needed.
But his actions don’t match his philosophy: he maintains relationships with all of Justine’s ex-boyfriends (from adolescence) and inappropriately makes contact with her new prospects. While not dysfunctional to the point of needing a restraining order, it’s not humorous.
Neither is Justine’s “art” where she takes x-rays of objects, her latest boyfriend, and a stranger’s dog. Thinking of all that dangerous radiation that was non-consensual was disturbing, so I wasn’t able to appreciate its artistic value, should there be any.
Before the halfway point of the movie, I knew exactly what was going to happen to every character. In some movies I don’t mind such predictibility, but this film was so contrived from the beginning that the whole thing felt forced. (I used that word on purpose, just won’t reveal why.)
If you enjoy the films of Nancy Meyers, you’ll likely find this a pleasant diversion. But for movie snobs like me, whose bar is a little higher, you risk bumping your head.
The French really know how to use Nina Simone. Remember this?