It is not often that I go for subtitled movies and yet whenever I do, they never disappoint. Return of the Hero is hilarious in its idiocy and more than once I caught myself laughing aloud at the absurdity of it all.
A French film set in the early 1800’s, Return of the Hero follows Capitaine Charles-Grégoire Neuville (Jean Dujardin) and Elisabeth Beaugrand (Mélanie Laurent), as they fool their small town into believing that Capitaine Neuville is someone that he very much isn’t.
Pauline (Noémie Merlant) is Elisabeth’s younger sister and the story begins with Capitaine Neuville asking for her hand in marriage. Her parents accept on her behalf (keep in mind, it’s the 19th century and everyone is old school) and then, just as suddenly, Capitaine Neuville is ordered to go off to war. He promises to write Pauline every day but of course, he never does. Elisabeth, seeing the way that his lack of contact is completely destroying her sister, decides to begin writing to Pauline as though she were Capitaine Neuville.
What ensues is the creation of an extraordinary man through incredibly detailed letters of adventure and courage – all fashioned by Elisabeth. Eventually, Capitaine Neuville returns to the village and decides to continue the façade that Elisabeth had created. He accepts all of the good fortune that comes his way because of it, and not once does he consider owning up to his deceit.
Return of the Hero is a funny, feel-good film that will have you chuckling throughout. Director Laurent Tirard didn’t focus much on character development as both Pauline’s husband, Nicolas (Christophe Montenez), and Elisabeth, were the only ones who grew at all. Even then, neither grew significantly.
The majority of the movie took place in a manor in rural France and the setting itself was stunning and simple, just as it would have been 200 years ago. Costuming was well executed and the actors looked believable in their 1800’s clothing. Editing of the film was smooth and I was easily able to follow along without any sort of technical hiccups or pitfalls.
Though the plot wasn’t overly unique, the execution of the film is what made it exciting and I can’t help but believe that when the French do humour, they do it well. Case in point: Tais Toi (2003) and The Intouchables (2011) – give them a watch after this one and you’ll see what I mean.
Return of the Hero is screening as part of the 2018 Alliance Française French Film Festival in Australia, go here for tickets and to view the full lineup of films.