La Famille Bélier ***
Dir: Eric Lartigau. With: Karin Viard, Francois Damiens, Eric Elmosnino, Louane Emera. 106 mins. Cert: 12A
From afar, French director Eric Lartigau’s follow-up to 2010’s hit thriller The Big Picture looks perilously sappy: it’s a post-Glee tale of a musically gifted teen (Louane Emera) torn between duty to her deaf dairy-farmer parents (Karin Viard and Francois Damiens) and the show choir that might liberate her from agricultural drudgery. In fact, Lartigau yields spirited, often funny material from the predicament of a heroine obliged to obtain everything from cattle feed to thrush cream for her folks, while constructing a most empathetic portrait of deafness: consider Damiens’ mayoral bid, launched on the slogan “I Hear You”. A canny cast earn any final-reel tears honestly: the ever-ebullient Viard proves even more expressive without spoken dialogue, and erstwhile Gainsbourg Eric Elmosnino lends wry support as the choirmaster. It wouldn’t work, though, without the Julia Stiles-ish Emera’s solid-gold knockout performance: both singing and signing, while describing a young woman overcoming understandable reservations about allowing her voice to be heard.
La Famille Bélier opens in selected cinemas from today.