Review: Vincent (2016)

Director: 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 is an entire generation growing up while these types of terms are discussed on a daily basis. Vulnerable, insecure and searching teenagers are taking part in this “Green Revolution”. They take action because they are concerned. We see that you can also go through that in ‘Vincent’ (2016), the tragicomedy by the Flemish director Christophe van Rompaey (known for ‘Collision in Moscow’, 2008). Van Rompaey was once such a worried teenager himself, but compared to the main character in “Vincent”, things were not that bad for him. Vincent (Spencer Bogaert), however, fears that we are all heading for an ecological apocalypse. “The fact that he is unable to change anything about that gave me as a filmmaker the opportunity to sketch how he gets stuck in his ‘angry adolescent phase’. I also 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 grows up in a dysfunctional family. When you are seventeen, see how to deal with a broken planet and a broken family. In any case, “Vincent” immediately comes straight to the point, because in the first scene we see the teenager trying to end his life. That this is not happening for the first time, is evident from the laconic reaction of his sister Nadia (Kimke Desart) when she calls the ambulance: “We have an emergency again…”. Vincent, aka 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 the heating all day long and living a strict vegan diet is of little use if you are the only one. His mother Marianne (Barbara Sarafian) no longer knows what to do with her son; having him admitted to an institution seems the only option, but she is not keen on that.

But then suddenly there is Aunt Nicole (Alexandra Lamy), Marianne’s half-sister who lives in Paris and is her opposite in everything. She is outgoing, flamboyant, swallows pills and guzzles around 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 a suffocating mother. Marianne considers the fact that her sister takes her son on a trip as a kidnapping and drums up her husband Raf (Geert van Rampelberg), Nadia and her pregnant other daughter Kelly (Emma Renaert) to stop the duo.

As with “Collision in Moscow”, Van Rompaey also works for “Vincent” with screenwriter Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem. 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 therefore perfectly fine. Yet “Vincent” makes less of an impression than “Collision in Moscow”. The story is more predictable; moreover, the contrast between the drama and the comic part is very great. The lightheartedness of the exuberant Aunt Nikki is at odds with the suicidal behavior of her nephew. Contrasts are used to let the protagonists learn from each other, and that’s what happens here. However, a slightly more subtle approach, and a short running time, would certainly have benefited the film. “Vincent” is called the Flemish “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006), but that comparison is a bit too much credit. Van Rompaey’s tragicomic road movie is charming and promising, but does not turn out as headstrong and original as we had hoped beforehand.

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