VOD film review: All Hands on Deck! (A L’Abordage)
Ivan Radford | On 29, Jul 2022
Director: Guillaume Brac
Cast: Eric Nantchouang, Salif Cissé, Édouard Sulpice, Asma Messaoudene
Boy meets girl. Girl leaves town. Boy follows her. Chaos ensues. It’s that age-old story that could turn into something cute or unpleasant. That tension sits just under the surface of Guillaume Brac’s All Hands on Deck!, but what’s remarkable is how light and breezy the whole thing is – the film doesn’t so much unspool on screen as casually saunter past in front of you.
Félix (Eric Nantchouang) is immediately struck when he meets Alma (Asma Messaoudene) at a dance in Paris. After they spend the night lounging in a park, he is saddened to hear she is leaving to visit family in the south of France. And so he hits upon a potentially dreadful idea: he’ll follow her there to surprise her. Accompanied by his loyal friend Chérif (Salif Cissé), they catch a lift via a ride-sharing app with the awkward Édouard (Édouard Sulpice), who doesn’t quite realise what he’s signed up for.
And so the stage is set for a comedy of errors, but while Félix’s oblivious behaviour is played for laughs, Alma’s reaction is played entirely straight, calling him out for his inappropriate intrusion on her holiday. That gives the ensemble wiggle room for light and shade, while also gently highlighting how our central couple are on different pages from the off. That’s true both emotionally and socially, and there are ripples of discord that dance across the shimmering surface of this road trip, even as it slows down to soak up the scenery with a freewheeling ease.
Brac and Catherine Paillé’s script provides a rough framework within which the cast improvise and flesh out their characters, developing each scene so that the casual snapshot of summertime feels like more than a string of vignettes. Eric Nantchouang is excellent as the occasionally hotheaded but sentimental and naive young man, while Asma Messaoudene captures the curiosity of youth with passion but also caution and anxiety. In between them, Édouard Sulpice finds a deceptive sweetness to someone who could have been the token comic relief. It’s Salif Cissé, though, who steals the show as the grounded Chérif, who strikes up an unexpected and gorgeously sincere connection with Héléna (Ana Blagojevic) and her baby.
The result is a melting pot of cultures, urges, whims and fancies, which Brac leaves to simmer in the agreeable heat. Whisking us away from Paris to a campsite in the country emphasises the way that a summer holiday can feel like a bubble outside of time, and that languorous optimism is almost tangible in the golden, relaxed visuals. It’s a deeply romantic film on many levels. Don’t be surprised if you fall in love.