French films are generally known for their deep dramas and artistic approaches to modern film making. A French film is always slightly askew. Normandy Nude manages to tick those boxes to a degree is a much more reserved entry. For a film like Normandy Nude this is a completely reasonable approach. In its softer more evenly paced story it captures a snapshot of life and the conflicts facing modern day French families in country France.
Normandy Nude is set in the small, sleepy village of Mele sur Sarthe in Normandy. An area rich in history and culture, still bearing the scars from WWII. The town and its people, mostly cattle farmers, are struggling with their livelihoods. With people eating less meat and competitive markets growing in Germany and Romania, the town of Mele sur Sarthe has been forgotten and is dying a slow death. Doing everything he can to save the town is Mayor Balbuzard (Francois Cluzet). He’s sacrificed everything for his village to no avail, but when an eccentric American photographer (Toby Jones) comes across the landscape of Mele sur Sarthe he proposes an idea which just might save the town. All Balbuzard must do is convince the whole town to strip naked.
Normandy Nude manages to cover a lot of ground in its hour and 45 minutes. With many side plots occurring around the village, Mele sur Sarthe and its people are given life and character which well encapsulates its small size. Generations old land disputes, old wounds from WWII, community dynamics and struggles brought on from a changing world. The town faces all these challenges as a community. Having built a tight network, all the despair, joy and fear is felt by every member of the town as a town. All these small stories and minor characters help portray and develop the character of the town. No plot is explored too in-depth as to make you connect or engage with any particular character. What it does though is develop the personality of a little heard of town known as Mele sur Sarthe. The fleshing out of the location is more important than any one character and that aspect of togetherness through thick and thin is what Normandy Nude translates exceptionally well.
Normandy Nude isn’t a compelling or outrageous film. It has a bit of drama, a slice of comedy, a touch of romance and a pinch of everything else but all these combined build a fantastic and fascinating film.