Irene Falvey checks out Nicolas Maury’s My Best Part.
My Best Part (Garçon chiffon) which screened at the Irish Film Institute as part of the IFI French Film Festival is a touching tragicomedy which centres on Jérémie (Nicolas Maury) as his unstable love life and career have spiralled out of control. While the self-obsessed, millennial, struggling artist is hardly new cinematic territory Maury’s directorial debut laces Jérémie’s reality with a dark and heart wrenching humour so engaging that it is impossible not to fall for Jérémie despite his troubling car crash behaviour. There is no space for sunshine and endless positivity; this is all woe is me and so much the better for it.
We meet Jérémie at a crisis point; he is clearly someone who has had some success and happiness in his life, yet these things are slipping out of his grasp. He knows he has a jealousy problem but can’t make it through a support group meeting, he is offered an acting role but is dropped at the last minute, he has a supportive boyfriend until his suspicious nature pushes his boyfriend away. While all of these situations stem from Jérémies personal behaviour and shortcomings, perhaps the film is actually examining the destabilising effects of trying to get by as a creative person in the world we live in. Jérémie, a struggling actor, seems to amass nothing but problems (he must suffer the acute shame of a declined credit card at lunch) as well as emotional baggage. By contrast the other figures in his life such as his boyfriend, a vet, and his mother, who rents out rooms to holiday makers seem like much more stable and content people. Perhaps this is most apparent when Jérémie meets with a filmmaker (played by Laure Calamy of Call My Agent! – coincidentally the best friend of Nicolas’s character in the same show) who is on the verge of a breakdown due to the end of a 17-year marriage and production team that won’t let her have her way. Her eardrum shattering emotional outburst really does make being an artist look like a true struggle.
While the film doesn’t shy away from portraying the deep seated jealousy that Jérémie struggles with (notably when his boyfriend’s phone buzzes and Jérémie can’t muster the self-control to resist asking “Who is that?” ) the depiction of Jérémie’s need to be noticed is more subtle. For the most part the film is light-hearted with melancholy turns thrown in yet scattered here and there are some visually gruesome moments. A particular shock occurs when, while sitting in a Parisian café with the director that has just taken him off a film, Jérémie crushes a pair of reading glasses in his hand until the shards of glass make it bleed. In the filmmaker’s house, to escape the insult of being asked to be her assistant for her film Jérémie leaves with such hastiness that he falls over and cuts his face. These physical scars could be seen as a reflection of the hurt Jérémie is going through internally; his pain, rejection and disappointment become externalised for others to see and hopefully take pity on him.
It’s not all doom and gloom though; to cope with being rejected both by the director and his boyfriend, Jéremie leaves Paris to spend time with his mother (Nathalie Baye) in the green and picturesque Limousin region. While it does take Jérémie some time to shake off his childish and controlling behaviour; things do begin to improve. Life, so to speak, almost begins to imitate art as Jérémie finally lands a role in a theatre production playing a character he truly connects with; a young melancholic teenager who finds the world rather harsh and takes his own life.
Despite his numerous flaws, Jérémie remains a character we cannot help but root for. When his beloved husky puppy becomes really sick; we are right there with Jérémie worrying in unison that this dog that has lightened the load of such a heavy person will not make it. Making an audience feel emotionally attached to someone that is capable of putting a spy camera in his ex-boyfriend’s apartment is no easy feat, but Nicolas Maury’s superb and believable performance makes us want Jérémie to succeed and find joy. The film teeters from highs to lows with grace and humour, keeping us on our toes as we never feel quite sure when the mood is going to turn; thankfully it is ultimately an uplifting and hilarious exploration of the struggles and triumphs of a real and flawed person trying to live out their dreams and get their life on track.
The IFI French Film Festival ran 17-28 November 2021.