My Best Friend

Eamonn Kiernan finds fine performances and characters to believe in

My Best Friend (Mon Mellieur Ami) is a finely observed slice of modern city living from writer/director Patrice Leconte (L’Homme du Train, Monsieur Hire).

Our protagonist Francois (Daniel Auteil), co-owns a Parisian antiques gallery with his partner Catherine (Julie Gayet). As the film opens, Francois is attending the funeral of a business acquaintance and is struck by the fact that there are a total of 7 mourners there. He is there for business purposes only, not out of any sympathy for the man or his family. This fact is noted quite quickly by the grieving widow.

Consequently Francois arrives late for an auction at which he disregards his partner’s advice and on impulse purchases a piece of ancient Greek pottery. This huge vase was a tribute from one friend to another on his death. The pot was to be buried with the deceased, full of the tears of his bereft friend.

Francois has just frittered away 200,000 Euros and this is money they can ill afford to spend. Catherine is perplexed and annoyed as this nonsensical purchase could put their business in jeopardy.

Later Francois and Catherine have dinner with friends. Francois disparagingly recounts the tale of the man with only 7 mourners at his funeral. One of the dinner guests remarks that Francois will have no-one at his own funeral. Stunned, Francois asks why he would say something so hurtful and untrue.

Catherine replies on the man’s behalf, stating that the answer to that is simple: Francois has no friends

Francois vehemently denies this and bets his newly acquired 200,000 Euro vase against the fact that he can produce a best friend by the end of the month. He has because he doesn’t like people. He only loves things.10 days to conjure up a friend. Francois, initially confident, soon discovers that Catherine is absolutely right.

And so we follow Francois’ frantic and ever desperate quest to find a friend, any friend, to win his bet and keep his beloved vase.

Francois keeps encountering a taxi driver, Dany (Bruno Boulet), who has an almost uncanny rapport with strangers. And so before long Francois the successful businessman becomes the awkward pupil, taking basic lessons in how to appear sociable to strangers from this lowly taxi driver.

At one point Dany asks Francois: 'Is there anybody you can call at 3am, in case you have a big problem?' Francois responds: 'I don’t have any big problem.' Dany retorts acidly: 'Yes, you have one. You can’t call anyone at 3am!'

Francois is a cypher for the inability we all have to engage with the life we want because of the life that we lead: too fast, too much pressure and not enough downtime. 

The film is also peppered with fine performances, especially from Daniel Auteil and Bruno Bouley. Their inevitable falling out and rapprochement are handled in masterly fashion by Leconte.

It is a joy to sit back and watch the big screen being lit up by fine acting, a cracking script and characters you can believe in.

My Best Friend is playing exclusively at Queen's Film Theatre from Friday May 25 to Thursday June 7.