Nadège Loiseau’s directorial debut is an adaptation of her short film Le Locataire developed here into a full length comic feature. Karin Viard (La Famille Bèlier, 21 Nuits avec Pattie) does a sterling job as Nicole Payan, a 49-year old woman, mother of two grown-up children, who finds she is expecting a third child. Billed as a comedy, Le Petit Locataire, is light on laughs but this omission is more than made up for by the depth of emotion running throughout the feature especially between the three generations of adult female characters. And Loiseau’s decision to avoid the more obvious ways of squeezing comic relief from Nicole’s situation is a clever one. In fact, apart from a few nudge, nudge, wink, wink remarks about older people still having an active sex life, Nicole’s late-life pregnancy is practically a side-issue to the more interesting analysis of the mother/child relationship and its obligations at whatever age. While Loiseau excels at breathing life into her female characters, the same cannot be said for the men, none of whom make a lasting impression. For a debut film, though, Loiseau shows a definite talent for spinning an engaging tale.
Nicole is devastated to learn at the ripe old age of 49 she is unexpectedly pregnant. Her unemployed husband Jean-Pierre (Philippe Rebbot – Les Chaises Musicales
, Les Chevaliers Blancs
) is also less than thrilled at the idea of a new addition to the family, likewise her grown up daughter Arielle (Marion Kneusé) who is still living at home, a single mother to the young Zoë (Stella Fenouillet) . Alongside husband, daughter and grand-daughter, there is also Nicole’s invalid mother Mamilette (Hélène Vincent) to take into account. Nicole’s life is a constant uphill struggle and she questions whether at her age it is possible to bring up another child..
Abortion, especially late-term abortion, is not a subject often raised in a comedy film. And it takes an actress of Viard’s calibre to handle the issue with tact and sensitivity. Moving away from the pregnancy itself, Loiseau lightens the mood with the effect on the family when Nicole is forced to step back from her role as worker, babysitter, cook, cleaner and carer for the elderly. And after a few awkward moments , this feel good comedy ultimately plays it safe and delivers a neat, tidy, anti-climactic ending.