3 In Arts and Entertainment

Film Festival Favourites: French Movies Worth Seeing

When you return home from a wonderful trip to France, do you miss the language, the culture, and the food? I’ve found a fix for this yearning. It’s to go to a major film festival where you can indulge in first-class French movies for a few days.  Many are picked up by distributors and you can see them on iTunes, Netflix, or other streaming services. Here are some that appeared at the Toronto International Film Festival-French movies worth seeing:

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)TIFF TIcket

Every September in Toronto, Canada the Toronto International Film Festival takes place. It has been running since 1976 and it brings films from all over the world to the public. The best thing that I love about this festival? The inclusion of French actors/actresses/locations and French movies.

 During the festival, I try to go to a few French movies. Sadly, not all of them get picked up by distributors and you might not even see the movie for another year. In 2019 I went to two movies that had three formidable French actresses: Isabelle Huppert, Catherine Deneuve, and Juliette Binoche. And in previous years I’ve seen movies starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Catherine Deneuve (again), Omar Sy, and Guillaume Canet in some of my favourite French films (see below).

TIFF French Movies Worth Seeing

 La Verite (The Truth) (2019)

I loved this movie. Catherine Deneuve plays a screen legend, and Juliette Binoche plays her estranged daughter and the combination of these two powerhouse actresses makes for a great movie. It’s funny, classy, and has you wondering what’s going to happen next. I highly recommend this movie.

Frankie (2019)

I chose to see this movie because it starred Isabelle Huppert. She has made some very successful movies lately. She is probably best known for her role in the highly acclaimed movie, “Elle” about a businesswoman who is raped but decides not to report it.

In this (predominantly) English-speaking movie, “Frankie” is about a French actress who is dying. She brings her family and best friend to Sintra, Portugal to spend time with her. It’s not a sad movie and she isn’t lying on a bed dying, so don’t worry about it being a tear-jerker.

While it was a very picturesque movie, it was lacking a deep plot or climax. Huppert does her best to add “quality” to the film and is joined by Marisa Tomei and Greg Kinnear.

3 Coeurs (3 Hearts) (2014)

In 2014, Catherine Deneuve teamed with her daughter, Chiara Mastroianni and Charlotte Gainsbourg in a story about Marc, a tax inspector who misses his train home. He meets up with and falls in love with Sylvie but doesn’t get her number and misses their subsequent rendez-vous. Sometime later, Marc falls in love with Sophie, who is, coincidentally Sylvie’s sister and when the family has a get-together, he finds out the connection. Sounds complicated? It isn’t. And it’s an intriguing storyline.

 Samba (2014)

In 2014, Charlotte Gainsbourg appeared in two TIFF movies. Samba is a feel-good story also starring Omar Sy who plays an illegal worker in France who is arrested and told to leave the country. A volunteer (Gainsbourg) who is recovering from burn-out helps him try to stay in the country.

The Intouchables (2011)

Recently an American remake of this French movie called “The Upside”,  starring Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart was released. I haven’t seen it and don’t intend to. Why? The French version was a box-office smash hit AND the original!

 It is based on the true story of a quadriplegic and his relationship with his caregiver who only interviewed for the job so he could keep his welfare benefits. It is heartwarming, funny and the lead actors, Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy make a great team. Highly recommend seeing this movie.

 Les Petits Mouchoirs (Little White Lies) (2010)

If you’ve seen the classic American movie, “The Big Chill”, you’ll love this movie. Similar, but different. With great music, but of course, the dialogue is in French.

 There is an ensemble cast including Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose”) and Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”) about a group of friends who gather at a seaside cottage for a summer vacation after visiting their friend who has been seriously injured in a motorcycle accident.

 It is funny, sad, serious, and moving, all wrapped into one. Another must-see movie.  Why this title? According to Wikipedia:

“The French title Les Petits Mouchoirs refers to a French expression mettre dans sa poche avec son mouchoir par-dessus, which means “to put something in your pocket with your handkerchief on top of it”, in other words, to keep something hidden, try to forget about it, not want to think about it.”.

 Sarah’s Key (2010)

This movie is based on the best-selling novel by Tatiana de Rosnay and it stars Kristin Scott-Thomas as a journalist investigating the Jewish persecution in Paris during WWII (Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup).

 Paris, Je taime (Paris, I Love You) (2006)


The cinematography is fabulous. 18 arrondissements (neighbourhoods) of Paris are revealed by 18 well-known directors in creative short stories. The vignettes star actors including Juliette Binoche, Natalie Portman, Nick Nolte, and others.  I particularly like this one about the 14th arrondissement.

  Amelie (2001)

The feel-good movie, Amelie about a Parisian waitress who sets out to make other people’s lives happier. won the People’s Choice Award at the 2001 Toronto Film Festival. Besides being an enjoyable (and quirky) storyline, seeing many Paris locations such as those in Montmartre are a bonus. It is one of the highest grossing films for a French movie n the United States.

Ma Femme Est Une Actrice (My Wife Is An Actress) (2002)

This is one of my favourite movies about a journalist (Yvan Attal) who becomes increasingly jealous when his wife (real life partner Charlotte Gainsbourg) starts shooting a movie with a very “hot” actor (played by Terrance Stamp). It’s funny, sweet and lots of Paris locations are showcased in the film.

If you enjoy French movies as I do, you might also consider some of these:

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  • Reply
    January 4, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    As you know, I fell in love with France long before I even visited the country, but this awesome list of films will keep the love alive when I’m not there! No doubt you have your own copies of these and I know we have watched some, but I think I’ll make it a goal for 2015 to watch them all. I’ll start with Sarah’s Key … I’ve wanted to see that one since I read the book.

  • Reply
    January 5, 2020 at 1:54 pm

    Thank you Janice for the great movie suggestions, I got a few out from the library! Over the holidays I watched Charade, Elle s’En Va and Samba. Omar Sy is a beautiful man inside and out. The Untouchables is superb, Samba is good. Lots of relevant themes in this movie regarding immigration/politics and our sense of belonging & home in society . In Samba some of the supporting characters really stood out for me, such as Samba’s Uncle Larouna and his exuberant friend Wilson. The Uncle calls Charlotte Gainsbourg’s character the ‘depressive’ which is fair. It was the first time I watched Catherine Deneuve in a movie. In Elle S’En Va, the characters she meets on her journey are fun and the relationship that develops with her grandson quite fascinating. Geographically it covers a lot of territory from Brittany to the south, to Annecy in the Rhone-Alpes and then somewhere more central?! For anyone who has ever fantasized about walking out on the job you’ll like this one! Charade I loved, it was highly entertaining ; Audrey Hepburn is tres drole!

    • Reply
      January 5, 2020 at 2:38 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing your impressions. Yes, Omar Sy is such a great actor. And there will always be Audrey Hepburn movies!

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