Guillaume Gallienne’s face is pale, soft rising dough that’s been squished with an insensitive fist, in this comic exploration of sexuality, gender and self-acceptance. Written, directed and starring Guillaume Gallienne (as himself, and also his mother) Les Garçons et Guillaume, à Table! is based on his upbringing in a privileged, dysfunctional family.
Guillaume is one of three boys, but his mother sees him as the different one: she sees him as her girl. Guillaume likes literature, is useless at sport and is the kind of boy to quiver at a falling leaf. Guillaume is confused, charmingly so, and he adores his mother.
Gallienne’s comic interpretation of his mother reveals Guillaume’s disarming blindness: she is anything but lovable. Madame Gallienne is irritable, bosses the housekeeper and reads romance novels. And of course she chain smokes, flicking her opinions with cigarette ash, showing little eye contact. Gallienne keeps his mother at the end of a long lens, an aesthetic distance where she is kept in Guillaume’s mind a beautiful, unobtainable butterfly. Up close, we know the truth is an unpleasant moth.
Guillaume is a pawn moved by the force of his father (and sighing-submission of his mother) from one ‘improving’ position to another. A summer of culture in Spain, and then, to work on his ‘manhood,’ a French boarding school. Here, nighttime activities in the dormitory, and toilets, make the experience short-lived. His parents then send him away to school in England. To the British audience, there are plenty of stereotypes, but it doesn’t matter, as by now we feel connected to Guillaume’s self-deprecation. We’re content to lurch forward with him in his hilarious decathlon of failure and confused sexual experience.
Guillaume tries his best to be gay, he really does, and although this quest forms the comic thrust of Les Garçons et Guillaume, à Table! the real charm rests in Gallienne’s poet’s sensibility. This is a cinematic sonnet to the love of women: their unobtainable beauty, the allure of their costume, and a distant mother. Guillaume is in awe of women, both understood and diminished by them and his performance is one sustained by tenderness and muscle.
Director: Guillaume Gallienne (2013)