La famille Bélier is flawed but worth watching [Review]

La famille Bélier is flawed but worth watching [Review]

A deaf person's relationship with music may be a tired trope, but La famille Bélier squeezes out what's left of it with a box-ticking comedy from director Eric Lartigau.

The French-language film centres on a cheese-making family that relies on its only hearing member - 16-year-old Paula (the angsty, excellent Louane Emera) - to communicate with the outside world. Dad Rodolph (Francois Damiens) is running for local mayor and needs his daughter to interpret. 

However, she is a talented singer, and is inspired to audition for a prestigious Parisian music school by her teacher (Eric Elmosnino). The family is split as Paula's passion conflicts with her responsibilities and her family's inability to perceive music.

The film uses hearing actors to play deaf characters, and has understandably attracted criticism for its rose-tinted portrayal of a complex condition. The disability is crudely exploited for slapstick effect, such as in one cringeworthy scene where Paula brings singing partner/crush Gabriel (Ilian Bergala) home.

But despite its flaws, La famille Bélier has a sweet heart, some relatable laugh-out-loud gags, and just enough sentimentality to have the tears prickling as a family learns a lot from listening to each other's needs.

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