10 jours en or is simply one of the worst films I’ve seen in recent memory. Having read a very brief synopsis before watching the film, I was well aware that it would be a bit too emotional for my taste, but I grossly underestimated just how obnoxiously sweet and cliché it would be. Now, so there are no misunderstandings, I’m not a robot. There were times in the film’s 95 minute runtime when I felt genuine pangs of sympathy for the characters, and one or two heartfelt moments that were relatable enough to be effective, but the problem with the film is that it is just a constant onslaught of sugary sweet sentimentalism. There is nothing worse than a film trying desperately to make viewers feel something in the most mawkish and contrived ways possible.
10 jours en or, written and directed by Nicolas Brossette, tells the story of Marc Bajau (Franck Dubosc), a successful traveling sales rep whose life is centered on his work. Marc is also a confirmed bachelor and a bit of a Casanova. He is at the top of his game when suddenly things start to take a turn for the worse. Marc’s boss informs him that his sales profits will be cut in half. When Marc brags that any other company would be happy to scoop up a great salesman like himself, Marc’s boss threatens to tell any prospective employers about Marc’s exorbitant taste in hotels and suits, which cost the company a fortune. Marc reluctantly agrees to stay at the company with the reduced commission, and prepares to leave for his next assignment. While in the men’s room, a black woman runs into the bathroom and forces Marc into a stall. Several men burst through the door, as they believe she has stolen something from the store. Marc emerges from the stall and assures the men that there is nobody else there. They believe him and leave. The woman introduces herself to him as Marie (Tatiana Rojo). Seeing that she is attractive, Marc gives her his business card and the name of the hotel where he is staying, in case she ever needs anything. Later that night, Marie shows up and the two sleep together. The next morning, Marie is gone, and while Marc is getting dressed, he realizes that he only has one shoe. He finds a note informing him that the other shoe is in a different room of the hotel. When Marc goes to retrieve it, he finds a little boy named Lucas (Mathis Toure) holding his shoe. He informs Marc that his mother left, but that she told him that a well-dressed man would take him to see “Father Clement” in the south of France. Without any other choice, Marc reluctantly takes Lucas on a road trip, stopping at various points along the way for his work. The journey has Marc and Lucas meeting many different characters, namely a young woman named Julie (Marie Kremer), who mixes up some words when she speaks and struggles to find direction in life, and a kind, but lonely old man named Pierre (Claude Rich), who misses having the love and warmth of a family. Even though Marc initially shows disdain for each subsequent person that prolongs the trip and prevents him from fulfilling his duties at work, he eventually learns valuable lessons from them and is bettered by the experience.
Before diving into everything that makes 10 jours en or such a terrible film, it must be said that it is a technically competent production. There is nothing wrong with the camerawork, set design, or staging. Everything looks and feels as it should for a quality film made with a decent budget. Even though the music is repetitive and only serves to amplify the sentimental moments, it’s not terrible. Since the film was shot on location, the scenery is often very beautiful, particularly once Marc and Lucas make it to the southern coast. However, the filmmakers dedicate very little screen time to the landscapes, instead pushing in closer on dialogue and character reactions.
This brings us to the script. Being a fan of French cinema, I assumed that even with a predictable and unappealing (at least to me) plot, the filmmakers would find ways to bring a uniquely French touch to the film. Perhaps there would be certain qualities of European art films in general, such as vague character motivation, cryptic dialogue, or philosophical themes. Sadly, this was not the case. This was more like an American movie that just happened to be made in France, by a French director, with French actors. And when I say “an American movie,” I am not talking about a well-made American film. This felt much more like a made-for-TV movie that one might see on the Hallmark Channel on a Sunday afternoon. The plot was so painfully predictable and cheesy that there were times that I couldn’t help but shake my head in disbelief. At every possible turn, Marc is made to learn a life lesson about caring for other people, the value of family, the importance of enjoying life, the insignificance of work, and on and on. With each new hardship or setback that befalls him, Marc becomes more and more frustrated, but suddenly, with about 10 minutes left in the film, Marc has a complete change of heart and really begins to understand all of these lessons.
The dialogue and characterizations only make each character even less plausible. Marc is always confounded by Lucas’ behavior, as if he has never met another human child in his life. Lucas is the stereotypical dough-eyed child, who we are supposed to think is adorable, but really he just comes across as annoying. His innocence and naïvety are put on full display at every possible opportunity, and the film constantly references the fact that he is mixed-race for some reason (as if the audience will somehow forget this fact). And, as with many other equally sentimental films, the combination of a white and black person coming to care for one another despite their differences is supposed to make the audience care even more for them. But at this point, this tired device is so overused that it no longer evokes emotion, instead it just seems lazy and patronizing. The film takes this pseudo-progressivism a step further by making Lucas’ mother an illegal immigrant, whose only wish is to give her son a better life than she had. If this were a better film that wasn’t always trying to beat the audience over the head with sentimentalism, this plot point wouldn’t be so bad. But, when juxtaposed with the rest of the film’s ridiculousness, it is just one more example in a sea of groan-inducing moments.
Rating: ★ out of 5
Even though I do not recommend it, if you would like to see how bad this film is, 10 jours en or is currently available to stream on Netflix.