Directed by: Christophe Van Rompaey | 121 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Spencer Bogaert, Barbara Sarafian, Alexandra Lamy, Geert Van Rampelberg, Catherine Aymerie, Griet van Damme, Ilona Bachelier, Fred Epaud, Eliza Stuyck, Kimke Desart, Grégoire Plantade, Emma Reymaert
Global warming, sea level rise, ecological footprint; there’s a whole generation growing up with these kinds of terms being discussed on a daily basis. It is vulnerable, insecure and searching teenagers who are committed to this ‘Green Revolution’. They act because they are concerned. We see in ‘Vincent’ (2016), the tragicomedy by the Flemish director Christophe van Rompaey (known for ‘Aanrijding in Moscou’, 2008). Van Rompaey was once such a concerned teenager, but compared to the main character in ‘Vincent’ it was not so bad for him. Vincent (Spencer Bogaert) fears, however, that we are all heading for an ecological apocalypse. “The fact that he is unable to change that has given me as a filmmaker the opportunity to outline how he gets stuck in his ‘angry adolescent phase’. In addition, I wanted to show his inability; Vincent is unable to overcome his fears and grow up,” said Van Rompaey.
This may also have to do with the fact that Vincent grew up in a dysfunctional family. At seventeen, see how to deal with a broken planet and a broken family. In any case, ‘Vincent’ is straight to the point, because in the first scene we see the teenager trying to end his life. That this is not the first time is apparent from the laconic reaction of his sister Nadia (Kimke Desart) when she calls the ambulance: “We have an emergency again…”. Vincent, also known as Al Gore Junior, thinks the world is better off without him, so he no longer has to pollute the earth with his presence. Turning off the lights and heating all day and living a strict vegan diet doesn’t help much if you’re the only one. His mother Marianne (Barbara Sarafian) doesn’t know what to do with her son anymore; having him admitted to an institution seems the only option, but she is not keen on that.
But then suddenly there’s Aunt Nicole (Alexandra Lamy), Marianne’s half-sister who lives in Paris and is her polar opposite in everything. She is extroverted, flamboyant, takes pills and drinks a lot and has her heart on her sleeve. Her arrival turns the lives of the relatives upside down. Vincent asks if he can go with her to Paris – where the Climate Summit is being held! – and Aunt Nikki (as she’s called) finally agrees, mostly because she’s convinced Vincent’s behavior is a result of Mother’s suffocation. Marianne considers the fact that her sister is taking her son on a trip as a kidnapping and calls on her husband Raf (Geert van Rampelberg), Nadia and her other pregnant daughter Kelly (Emma Renaert) to stop the duo.
As with ‘Aanrijding in Moscou’, Van Rompaey also works together with screenwriter Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem for ‘Vincent’. That film was a great success at the various film festivals at the time and ‘Vincent’ also did well, at least at the Locarno film festival, where Sarafian was awarded the press prize for best actress. The acting is also very good. Still, ‘Vincent’ is less impressive than ‘Collision in Moscow’. The story is more predictable; moreover, the contrast between the drama and the comedic part is very great. The exuberant Aunt Nikki’s lightheartedness is at odds with her nephew’s suicidal behavior. Contrasts are used to help the protagonists learn from each other, and that’s what happens here. However, a slightly more subtle approach, and a short running time, would have benefited the film. ‘Vincent’ is called the Flemish ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ (2006), but that comparison is a bit too much honour. Van Rompaey’s tragicomic road movie is charming and promising, but does not turn out as headstrong and original as we had hoped.