At the height of his fame, Taillandier (Patrick Chesnais)
suddenly stops painting. Deeply depressed, he leaves town with no plans and without
a word to his close friends. During his travels Taillandier has a strange
encounter with Marylou (
Jeanne Lambert),
a troubled teenager who has been rejected by her mother. The meeting unexpectedly
brings peace to both lost souls and they travel together, living like father
and daughter.  

Two lost, wounded souls repair their lives in affecting dramedy.

FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL: Two runaways embark on a road trip in Jean Becker’s Welcome Aboard, a beguiling, warm-hearted and wryly amusing movie which rises above the formulaic theme thanks to a novel twist: there’s an age gap of roughly 50 years between the protagonists.

an artful blend of restrained drama, pathos and comedy

Like Becker’s previous efforts My Afternoons with Margueritte and Conversations with My Gardener, this film’s strengths are its strongly drawn characters, believable dialogue, superb performances and an artful blend of restrained drama, pathos and comedy.

Becker’s screenplay is adapted from the novel Bienvenue Parmi Nous by Eric Holder, evidently a rather darker work than this whimsical film.

Patrick Chesnais plays Taillandier, a curmudgeonly, 60-something painter who has lost the inspiration to paint and his zest for life. 'I don’t like this world; I just want to sleep," he tells his sculptor friend Max (Jacques Weber).

Ominously, the self-described 'old geezer" buys a high-powered rifle, writes a note for his long-suffering wife Alice (Miou-Miou) declaring, 'I can’t take it any more," and drives off.

Taillandier doesn’t have the bottle to take his own life, although he comes perilously close. By chance he meets 15-year-old hitchhiker Marilou (Jeanne Lambert), who has been kicked out of home by her mother and her abusive stepfather.

Reluctantly he gives her a lift, although in his depressed state it’s clear he doesn’t want either the responsibility or the company. She’s a feisty lass who cannot fathom why he has abandoned his wife, son and daughter, grandkids and the comforts of his home. 'You must be a little wacko," she tartly observes.

Taillandier won’t take his wife’s calls and ignores her text messages. The old man and the girl rent a small cottage by the beach, from where the plot follows a predictable course as they grow closer, each recognising the other’s predicament, and he becomes protective.

There are just three dramatic flashpoints, one involving a confrontation with Marilou’s parents, an incident with a bunch of local toughs and another late in the narrative.

Some of the mismatched duo’s exchanges are amusing, often keyed around the age gap, and encounters with a droll maétre d’hôtel (Xavier Gallais) add spice to the proceedings.

Chesnais shows great skill in evoking sympathy for his character, despite the angst his irrational and arguably selfish behaviour is causing his wife, extended family and friends. The tenderness he shows for his young charge is quite moving.

In her film debut, the pixie-ish Lambert is a revelation, alternating between sassy
toughness, touching vulnerability and girlish enthusiasm, as Marilou develops a lovely rapport with Taillandier.

The unobtrusively tasteful soundtrack by Jean-Michel Bernard perfectly suits the film’s tone, apart from a couple of jarringly soppy songs.