C'est la vie (1990) from Tuna

C'est la vie (1990) is an autobiographical film by Diane Kurys (Entre Nous) which takes place during the summer of her 13th year.

It is a slice of life film, and shows how she, and those around her, cope with the divorce of her parents. The family is to spend the summer at the beach, with her mother's half sister and her family. This has been an annual event. She has been picking up overtones that her parents marriage is not a happy one, and, at the train station, her mother hustles her and her sister on the train with their nanny, and announces that she won't be there for a few weeks. It shapes up to be the best summer of her life. She delights in tormenting her nanny, romancing her older cousin, and enjoying her joker of an uncle. Then her mother arrives -- with a lover, and the children learn that they will be moving to Paris with their mother. Then, their father arrives. He doesn't want the divorce, and tries to play the kids against their mother to stop it.

One reviewer called it half coming of age, half tragedy of divorce, and said that the two stories fought each other. Not every story with a girl on the cusp of womanhood is a coming of age story, and Frédérique (Julie Bataille) is the same child at the end of the film that she was at the beginning. She is ready to start High School, and her family will never be together again, but there is no loss of innocence here, or coming of age. All of the children from both families, which range in age from 5 to 15, play together, and gladly. One of the things that makes this film for me is the absolute believability of the characters. Frédérique, writing in her diary, says of her older cousin, "He says he slept with a girl. I didn't believe him, but he gave me details, and now I am not so sure." When they sneak into a sand castle contest for members of a beach club, and one of her cousins is declared the winner, then disqualified because he is not a member, all the kids sneak back late at night and burn the club playground down.

As for the adults, they are an equally entertaining mix. Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi, as the governess, is the perfect butt of the kids jokes, and provides the only exposure. She is lying on her stomach with her top undone to avoid tan lines, when the uncle hollers, "scorpion." She jumps up, exposing her breasts. The uncle is a joker, but has a temper. The aunt is pregnant yet again. The mother has thrown caution to the wind and is having an affair with a starving artist. The artist is going to New York, and expects her to drop everything and go with him. The father is self-absorbed, and sees nothing wrong with using his kids to apply pressure on the mother.


see the main commentary

DVD info from Amazon

  • Widescreen anamorphic. No features except a trailer.

Roger Ebert, in a thoughtful review, awarded 2 1/2 stars. His main complaint was that he wanted more resolution, commenting that he was not convinced even the film maker knew what effect the divorce had on the kids. I would guess that Kurys is still sorting out her feelings about her parents' breakup. The trailer was a montage of scenes from the film with an English voice-over by Kurys, who said that it was the best summer of her life, that ended with the most shattering experience of her life. She translated C'est la vie, which we usually think of as Such is Life as That's Life. I didn't detect the usual cynical view that life sucks, so what, in her tone, but rather that life is what it is.

(Note: C'est la vie is the title used for distribution in English-speaking countries. The original French title was La Baule-les-Pins )

The Critics Vote

  • Roger Ebert 2.5/4

The People Vote ...

  • It grossed $800,000 in the United States, which isn't bad for a sensitive, subtitled film.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, C. I enjoyed this film very much, but your mileage will vary.

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