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MOVIE REVIEW: French Toast

Published Apr 24, 2015

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FRENCH TOAST

DIRECTOR: Paul Krüger and Anél Stolp

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CAST: Lika Berning, Thierry Ballarin, Deon Lotz, Hélène Lombard, Paul du Toit, Roberta Fox, Trudi Conradie

CLASSIFATION: PG

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

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RATING: **

GORGEOUSLY shot, albeit with a cliched plot and muddled storyline, French Toast is an Afrikaans rom-com set partly in Paris. Not Parys in the Free State, but the real deal.

Lika Berning is the lead, Lise le Roux, a Cape winefarm boerenooi who ferrets out her dearly departed mother’s secret. She plays it natural, unforced, even when the character does the most nonsensical things, the character’s arc seems inevitable within this storyline.

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Though not one for trying new things, Lise sets off for Paris to find a long-lost sibling and discovers a love interest along the way.

The idea that Lise might have an unknown sibling in another country is intriguing, but the set-up that explains how it happened doesn’t make sense, even within the film’s own little world. Like, if this is actually Lise’s dad’s child, and her parents ended up getting married anyway, how come he didn’t just marry her the first time around? And how come the actress playing the mom looks older than the Lise character is now?

And the details just get more muddled once Frenchman Jean Pierre (Ballarin) promises to help her search if she would only take photos for his cookbook. Never mind that she never changes her lenses… not once… ever.

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But, this is not a film about picky details or plotholes, but about feelings and also, the look and feel of the film and how that contributes to the story.

When in Paris, Lise visits every “romantic” spot which makes for a useful short-hand to further her relationship with Jean-Pierre. Obviously they are having the time of their lives and making the most amazing connection, because hey, look, they are wandering around the city of luuurve.

The piano and strings-heavy score means there is never a silent moment, with the emotional cues coming thick and fast.

Back home, dad Izak le Roux (Lotz) finds a love connection with Ellen van der Merwe (Lombard) with both usually nuanced actors rather under-used because any emotion they might feel is put into their mouths rather than allowed to be acted upon.

Cape Town is grey and rainy because Lise is unhappy even if she doesn’t know it, while Paris is light and sunshine because she finds love. But again, the visual cues help you make sense of the character’s state of mind.

Hartiwood Films have pumped a lot of money into this project and it shows in DoP Gustav Germishuizen’s natural lighting and sympathetic framing and art director Bathoni Robinson’s meticulous attention to detail.

Now if that level of creativity and know-how could have been applied to the script to iron out the details, this could have been more than a paint by numbers rom-com.

If you liked Liefling or Pretville, you will like this.

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