The Thorn in the Heart

By James Burbidge

Country: France
Running time:
Directed by:
Michel Gondry
Suzette Gondry, Jena-Yves Gondry

The Thorn in the Heart

Michel Gondry is the acclaimed director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind, countless music videos and a large handful of shorts and other documentaries. In this, very personal, film, he turns the camera on his own family - more specifically, his aunt Suzette. She is a formidable woman, even in her (presumed) 70s, and her redoubtable teaching style is still easy to see. Although it takes it’s time to tell you, this film is structured around her trips to all the schools she was stationed at in the rural Cevennes region over a long career as a teacher. Walking through old towns Suzette points out the buildings that frequently functioned both as classroom and home for her and her family.

It is this family that forms the emotional heart of the story – particularly her relationship with her troubled son, Jean-Yves Gondry. Growing up with a woman who was both mother and teacher before working for his father in a sawmill, Jean-Yves has clearly always been close to his family. But his life is not counted a success, either by himself or those close to him, and the scenes that explore the perceived reasons for that failure are raw and exposing studies of humanity.

The Thorn in the Heart 2

When it explores this relationship The Thorn in the Heart is at its strongest: tender, extremely intimate and mournful. However, much of the film is taken up with other material: tours of former schools, early footage of the family by a teenage Michel, conversations with extraneous family members, etc are all thrown in without much structure to pull them together. Several scenes are charming in their own right – Gondry edits a scene of Suzette moving around a school to the music to make it almost a dance – but it always feels like we’re killing time until we get back to that central story.

There’s an exquisite short documentary in there somewhere but in its current form A Thorn in the Heart just feels long and meandering. One for the Gondry fans only perhaps.

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About The Author

James Burbidge James performs a plethora of tasks for Raindance; writing articles, editing the newsletter, managing Twitter, helping on courses, organising volunteers and running the script services are but a few of the ones he is allowed to tell you about.
When he isn’t daydreaming about daylight he watches films (well, duh!) reads a bit, writes a bit and kicks arse at ultimate Frisbee.




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