A teacher embarks on a long journey with a donkey to find her secret lover in the countryside, with plenty of humour, romance and the odd misjudged moment here and there.
How many romantic comedies can you name that involve a donkey? You have the classic that is Shrek, but you can now add one more to that category with the new film My Donkey, My Lover and I, which injects the classic rom-com formula with a donkey. This sounds like an unusual premise from the title, and at times it can be, with an odd moment here and a piece of slapstick comedy there but don’t come in thinking it’s going to be some sort of Three Stooges production, because you will be greeted with a romantic comedy with a slightly odd premise, but a rom-com through and through.
The premise is simple. A schoolteacher Antoinette (Laure Calamy) is having an affair with Vladimir (Benjamin Lavernhe) who is the father of one of her pupils. When Antoinette discovers that Vlad and his family are about to depart on a hiking trip through the French countryside, she decides to follow along unbeknownst to him. She takes a donkey called Patrick along and what follows is a journey of self-discovery, humour, and romance.
The film itself is a hybrid of different things, one-part physical comedy, one-part romantic drama, and a smidgen of rom-com dropped in for good measure. The film is pleasantly scenic too, making effective use of locations and is competently shot. But the real strength of the film is the characters.
The lead actress Laure Calamy, whose performance manages to be a combination of confident, flawed, and charming, really helps you get behind her character and turns what could be a stereotypical role into a more rounded one. The supporting characters in the film are also a delight, giving advice and kind words to Antoinette, and while these characters’ main duty is to provide some comic relief, they can be a little lacking in terms of character depth.
These supporting characters have their moments, they support Antoinette and fire off the odd bit of wisdom or funny line but they never really stand out. This is a little disappointing as this film could have had more fun with performances outside of the main cast.
Antoinette’s lover Vlad is an unlikeable character, having an affair with his daughter’s teacher and his attitude towards Antoinette, with her falling in love when in reality to Vlad she is just another person to have casual sex with. Even with his wife’s surprising reaction to the affair you never feel empathetic towards him, probably mainly due to the fact that we never spend a lot of time with him, so his character does feel quite one-note.
Whilst Vlad is shown to be a less than savoury character, Patrick is Antoinette’s rock. He even comes with a tragic backstory involving his mother, which is a nice surprise and an unexpected character development. It’s impressive how much the film makes you care about this donkey; in one heart-breaking scene Antoinette thinks she’s lost Patrick. In another surprising moment, Antoinette begins to whip and swear at Patrick, which made me feel uncomfortable to the point of wanting to phone the RSPCA. All jokes aside, this is due to her woes in her romantic life and the challenging hiking trail, but it does not come across as terribly funny.
But even with lacklustre supporting characters and the odd bit of animal cruelty the film manages to keep its charm. The film even has an ending so cliche (that I won’t spoil here) but is enjoyable, mainly because you feel like the film has earned it through it’s charming lead.
Overall, this film manages to provide humour, charm, character, and picturesque scenes you wish you could visit. Even with the odd dip of quality here and there, it’s a strong piece of work.
Words by Brett Herlingshaw
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