- Colin Fraser
SEE YOU UP THERE
FOUR STARS A book-keeper and an injured artist run a racket selling but not-making war memorials after WW1.
Albert Dupontel, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart
COMEDY DRAMA French Language #SEEYOUUPTHERE
In the deceptively wistful, hyper-produced style of films like AMELIE that tackle deep, dark subjects with style, grace and wit comes SEE YOU UP THERE - the bastard child of Phantom of the Opera and battlefield drama. It is both gruelling and emotional yet strangely uplifting with more than eye to camp theatricality. What better way to explore the PTSD horror of the first World War?
It begins in the trenches when an amoral, self-serving French commander picks a fight with the enemy, using his own men as bait. Jump forward and a foot soldier in his battalion now cares for a man who lost his jaw in the battle. He’s a brilliant artist, his carer a sturdy book-keeper and together they hatch a grandiose plan to not-build war memorials and run off with the down payments. The jewel in this plan is swindling the artist’s estranged, belligerent and wealthy father. The complication is that his daughter, the artist’s sister, has since married the Commander who runs his own racket not-burying dead soldiers.
A complex plot is easily navigated thanks to the deft hand of director Albert Dupontel (who wrote the screenplay and also takes co-lead as the book-keeper). It helps that his character also narrates the tale to an investigating officer who is piecing the story together. Everyone has done wrong, accumulated blame and no one is innocent as the officer learns.
Dupontel keeps a lid on a film that could take its absurdist roots too seriously, and therefore become too light and fanciful. Nor does he press too hard on the darker matters at hand; coping with the physical and mental fallout of World War 1 for instance. Instead he finds a way to knit all the story’s elements together in a way that strengthens the whole and creates an utterly compelling, enlightening, funny and above all sympathetic film in the process.