My Afternoons with Margueritte is a lovely film about a an uneducated man and the three women in his life: his bus-driving girlfriend, his abusive mother, and a well-read older woman - much older. It's no Harold and Maude though. I think it's better.
It's not at all contrived that someone who couldn't manage in school could suddenly pick up on nuances of literature and connect them to life. I've seen struggles with literacy prevent kids from having a useful education, and it's curious that we focus so much on the written word when we're moving beyond that in real life such that people can get all their news from YouTube. But that's not really what the film's about.
It's about love and connections and kindness unrestricted by artificial social constructs that create boundaries around who we should spend our time with.* It's another reminder to fight the pigeonholing that sticks us in roles that just don't work for us. But, unlike The Graduate, the characters here actually get somewhere with their personal rebellion.
It's also about education and arrogance. Germain is well-loved because he is kind and funny and wise. Some reviewers find his relationship with Annette, his lovely young girlfriend, unbelievable, but I think that just reveals an attitude of rigid and arrogant conformity to social expectations. They get what they need from one another, and they clearly have a bond in the film. In fact, it's the whole point. Similarities in age, education, and/or aesthetics are not what really connect us - that's all just superficial crap. We connect when we have a profound respect and admiration for another's ideas or actions. This is different than being impressed by them, as the characters do don't anything spectacular, but how many of us do.
And it's about rising above your beginnings. We don't need to be taught love from our parents; it's in us already if we're brave enough to share it.
Okay, it's sentimental, but it works.
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*Grammar point: This bothers me a bit. I know it should say, "with whom we should spend our time," but that feels awkward and pretentious. Nobody talks like that. Personally, I think it's time written language cleans out its closet of some archaic rules that only affect marks on student essays and little else in the world. I'm taking the first step by largely ignoring them.