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Film review: News from Planet Mars – French comedy’s playful, surreal look at social mores

A well-cast leading duo is locked in an antagonistic relationship in a film that, despite its good intentions and undeniable charm, is somewhat unfocused

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, 7:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, 7:00am

3/5 stars

While never allowing events to spiral into full-blown farce, the French comedy News from Planet Mars constantly tests the limits of its somewhat absurd reality, to mostly winning effect.

When unassuming IT programmer Philippe Mars (Francois Damiens) is assigned to a new project alongside unstable colleague Jérôme (Vincent Macaigne), his life takes a dramatic turn. Before he knows what’s hit him, his ear has been severed, his apartment has been overrun by unwanted house guests, and his dead parents begin appearing to him in a series of bizarre visions.

After a violent outburst at work, Jérôme seeks refuge with Philippe, a laid-back divorcee who is already being taken advantage of by everyone around him. Philippe’s teenage daughter (Jeanne Guittet) is propelled by an unhealthy work ethic, while his son (Tom Rivoire) is on the verge of becoming a vegetarian extremist. Even Philippe’s sister (Olivia Côte) unceremoniously dumps her dog on him despite his protestations.

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Director and co-screenwriter Dominik Moll (The Monk) strikes a playfully surreal tone in News from Planet Mars. Jérôme’s lack of recognition for etiquette and social mores plays in stark contrast to Philippe’s insistence that mutual respect and consideration will make the world a better place for everyone.

Damiens and Macaigne are wonderfully cast, and the film would have benefited from exploring their antagonistic relationship even further. Philippe and Jérôme are set on a collision course of epic proportions, which is never fully realised. Between the dog walking, pre-teen sexting, and late night news stories that may or may not include cucumbers, the final product is somewhat unfocused, despite its good intentions and undeniable charm.

News from Planet Mars opens on February 23

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