Amazon Prime Video film review: Microbe and Gasoline
Helen Archer | On 07, Mar 2016
Director: Michel Gondry
Cast: Ange Dargent, Théophile Baquet
Watch Microbe and Gasoline online in the UK: Amazon Prime / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
You never know quite what to expect from Michel Gondry. Beginning his career with inventive, smart music videos for the likes of Björk, Daft Punk and Radiohead, the French director graduated to feature films with his debut Human Nature. But it was with his surrealist, whimsical works, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, that he really made a name for himself. After a brief detour into slightly more mainstream Hollywood fare (The Green Hornet; Be Kind, Rewind), he seemed to return to his roots with Mood Indigo and the low-budget The We and The I.
Hollywood films aside, the connection between his work seems to be the heartfelt and sincere emotion he manages to conjure. His most recent work, the coming-of-age film Microbe and Gasoline (Microbe et Gasoil), is no exception, though fans of the surreal may be disappointed. Much like Lynch’s conventional The Straight Story, this is an unvarnished, guileless road trip, French adolescent-style.
Daniel (Ange Dargent) befriends new boy at school, Théo (Théophile Baquet), when they are seated together in class. While Daniel is anxious, neurotic, and small for his age (hence his nickname Microbe), Théo is larger-than-life, more laissez-faire. Both are prone to simple yet profound and melodramatic declarations – “School bullies are tomorrow’s victims”; “Friendship is the death of love”; “Kids aren’t responsible for their parents’ happiness”; “She loves me too much,” Daniel says of his mother (Audrey Tatou) at one stage. “I feel sorry for her.”
The two socially awkward adolescents (Théo calls them “independent spirits”) escape from their troubles at home during the summer holidays in the motorised hut-on-wheels they invent, as a way to get round vehicle licensing laws. They set off on an adventure, ready to realise their dream of independence, ready to “kick the future’s arse”, trundling down the sunlit back roads of rural France, exchanging confidences as they go. Lessons are learned and bonds are forged.
The film is beautifully entertaining, in a gentle, old-fashioned way. Though set in the present, this is a timeless piece. It portrays an idealised childhood, one in which kids don’t spend their waking hours in front of a computer, but instead take creative joy in forming bands, tinkering with engines, and drawing portraits (and masturbatory fantasies).
A warm, gentle humour suffuses the film. It is beautifully written, and there are terrific and charismatic performances from the two young leads. The score, too is wonderfully evocative (composer Jean-Claude Vannier was nominated for a Lumieres Award for his work). Microbe and Gasoline is charming, good-natured, innocent, completely unpretentious and yet expertly conceived. Who can tell if this is a permanent new direction for the director, or just a delightful detour? With Gondry, nothing is predictable.
Microbe and Gasoline is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.