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Michel Gondry's A THORN IN THE HEART


If you’ve seen A THORN IN THE HEART, the latest from director Michel Gondry (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND), congratulations: you are part of the 50% of audiences that made it to the end of the end. 50% is only an estimate, of course; I can only speak from my own experience on a Friday night at CIty Cinemas in the East Village, the only theatre it’s playing at in NY, and for good reason too. The 50% that walked out midway didn’t leave because they were offended or because the film went over their heads, they were just bored.

I was too, but I persevered through an hour and a half long home movie in which Gondry tells a meandering and wholly uninteresting story about his aging aunt, a retired provincial schoolteacher. Calling it a story, however, would imply that there is a plot at work so let’s call it an attempt at a story instead. Together, Gondry and his aunt revisit the small towns where she once taught and in each one she finds the old building that once served as a school and she walks around the empty rooms and perhaps points out where the desks once were. A nice afternoon for a nephew and his favorite aunt, but this does not a movie make.

Why then, I’m compelled to ask, was this made? It’s the kind of thing that ought not to leave the family DVD player, if, indeed, the entire family is able to watch it through to the end. Gondry tried, I think, to make his aunt’s ‘story’ relevant by bringing her to a modern classroom to be interviewed by a group of schoolchildren who seem just as confused as to what they’re doing as the audience is. But because Gondry himself is unable to ask his family members the probing kinds of questions that might give his film a plot point or two, A THORN IN THE HEART (a title hardly relevant to the film) is nothing more, I think, than a frustrating and confounding experiment in how far a famous and respected filmmaker can ride on name alone.