Jerome Varenne (Mathieu Almaric) pays an unexpected visit to his mother (Nicole Garcia) in France en route between Shanghai (where he works) and London (where he and his colleague and fiance (Chen Lin (played by Gemma Chan)) are due at an important meeting). What is intended as a flying visit is extended as Jerome becomes involved in the family's protracted wrangling over their country estate in Ambray.
The action of the film centres on the family melodrama as secrets are revealed and enmities come to the surface. In the background is the local governmental power play over the fate of the family's estate and in fact other green spaces in the town. Will the mayor preserve the family's historical home or will he allow to become the focal point of a luxury gated community or will it in fact disappear in a new industrial zone?
I wanted to know more about the way the local government was working here but for the balance of the overall film it was right that those issues were pushed into the background and after all isn't that how it happens in reality? We're all more interested in who's sleeping with who than in the future of our communities and too many people are only interested in country estates and green spaces for the money they can make out of them.
That sounds cynical of me, but don't let it put you off watching this film which is entertainingly melodramatic all the way through. And the background story about rampant development of green spaces may strike a chord with a lot of people (certainly with residents of Edinburgh).
Belles Familles is showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival:
2030, 22 June and 1530, 25 June both at Cineworld.
You can read my other reviews from this year's film festival by following the links below:
The Olive Tree.
Death is Only the Beginning - my review of The Correspondence and The Library Suicides.
The Islands and the Whales.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Bugs - are insects the food of the future?
Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended free press screenings of these films