In the Courtyard Blu-ray review
On the stage, a microphone stands alone in the spotlight while the crowd calls out for the singer. He’s called onstage by a manager but doesn’t want to go on. He says he wants to sleep instead.. When he’s finally convinced to go on, he rolls his bag with him as if it’s a burden.
Later, the man, Antoine (Gustave Kervern, who might be better known for his collaborations with Benoît Delépine), sits in the park, completely numb to his surroundings. He is in desperate need of a job and so takes whatever is offered: a janitorial position that has to be pulled from the trashcan. He doesn’t have any experience and he doesn’t seem to have combed his hair in months, but he is hired anyway by Mathilde (go-to Catherine Deneuve, who also this year appeared in Benoît Jacquot’s THREE HEARTS and André Téchiné’s IN THE NAME OF MY DAUGHTER) and Serge (Féodor Atkine, Cédric Jimenez’s THE CONNECTION), the owners of the Parisian apartment complex in which he’ll work.
On a daily basis, he shows an immediate ineptness—his mopping at late hours wakes the tenants, he uses the hose less as a tool and more as a toy, etc. But Mathilde keeps him on, if not just because she is too busy to keep direct tabs on the employee—that, and she feels slightly bad she hurled a pear at him one afternoon. This close proximity allows for a bond to be set up between the two.
While the relationship between Antoine and Mathilde is at the center of the movie, it is hard to invest since it all comes off so forced. The screenplay, by Pierre Salvadori (also director; his previous efforts include 2010’s BEAUTIFUL LIES and 2006’s PRICELESS) and David Colombo Léotard, is unashamedly thin in how desperate it is to not just have Antoine and Mathilde keep running into each other, but also linking their insecurities and shortcomings. In a short time, the two are having awkwardly worded conversations about old soil, cracks in the wall and sad newspaper articles, all of which are meant to be symbolic of something or the other. These moments could be defended as Mathilde finally finding someone to talk to and confide in (her relationship with Serge has seen better days), but it seems more likely that it is just lazy writing, a shortcut to lay out Antoine and Mathilde’s issues through half-hearted metaphors.
It’s not that the viewer can’t find it within themselves to care about the illnesses that the lead characters have, it’s that they’re not really given a reason to care about Antoine and Mathilde as companions, particularly because the majority of words that come from their mouths seem so terribly phony. Even if the viewer does get invested in the pair, there are enough comic relief distractions (Dogzilla?) to quickly cause a derailment.
IN THE COURTYARD premiered at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival as part of the Berlinale Special Galas.
Video: 2.38:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. The image is clean, showing off fine details and healthy colors.
Audio: French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; French 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles in English. Dialogue is clear and the atmosphere of the apartment complex comes through nicely.
Interview with Director Pierre Salvadori (28:35): Salvadori sits down for a thorough interview in which he touches on the story, themes, characters, cast and more.