Director: Frédéric Dumont | 86 minutes | drama | Actors: Martin Nissen, Anne Consigny, Olivier Gourmet, Julien Frison, Pierre-Luc Brillant, Louise Portal, Jacques Germain, Saida, Salem, Jamal, Ahmed Saart, Bobker Hilal, Khadija
Some movies deserve a better fate. It is almost poignant and incomprehensible how ‘An Angel at the Sea (2009)’, by the Belgian film maker Frédéric Dumont, threatens to disappear in silence. With a minimum of attention and response from both press and public, this is nevertheless a gem that the lover of the better drama must discover. This print is not a masterpiece, but it has won several awards at small festivals. The intriguing but dark and icy premise had us on the scratch for an hour and a half.
The title refers to a poem by Baudelaire. The angel on duty is called Louis, a twelve-year-old boy who lives with his parents and brother in a coastal town in the south of Morocco. Louis leads a carefree life. The fantastic climate and beautiful surroundings play a major role in this. Sun, sea and plenty of space to play make the boy believe he lives in paradise. Unfortunately that oasis of open-mindedness is threatened by inky black clouds. His father, a lawyer, is bipolar. One day he calls the apple of his eye to share a secret with him: he wants to commit suicide and preferably as soon as possible. Louis is not allowed to tell the rest of the family. After this confession, the boy fearfully watches over his father and never loses sight of him, hence the link to the French poet and his Fleurs du Mal, in which joy abruptly gives way to desperation. A lemon tree in the garden becomes a lookout from where he can spy on his father. While his mother tries to keep the family together, Louis gets more and more difficult.
What follows is a disconcerting and inverted father-son relationship in which a child has to take care of an adult person. ‘An Angel at the Sea (2009)’ is modest, but does not shy away from painful confrontations. The way in which the father attracts and repels his child is very harsh at times and provides some catchy moments. This is not least due to the synergy between Olivier Gourmet, as the melancholy father, and Martin Nissen. It’s just wonderful how this young lad, with limited life experience, feels his role. The beautiful color palette and the beautiful image composition (the view from the trunk) provide a penetrating piece of family reflection in which the viewer fearfully realizes that something lugubrious could happen at any moment.