Looking like the gone-to-seed singer from an early Eighties metal band, Gérard Depardieu puts in a good shift in the comic and surreal Mammuth, the story of one new retiree's wild goose chase for his pension.
After 10 years working in a pork factory, Serge 'Mammuth' Pilardosse (Depardieu) is given a 2,000-piece jigsaw by his workmates and told to have a nice life - or what's left of it, anyway. With no plan about what to do when he doesn't have to get up in the morning, Serge mopes around the house, counts cars passing by, gets on the nerves of wife Catherine (Moreau) and starts the jigsaw. Catherine tries to focus his attention by reminding him that money is tight and he needs to get his pension entitlements sorted. Easier said than done: Serge is missing records from some of his former employers and has to track them down before The Man will cough up. And so his vintage motorcycle comes out of the garage and he sets off on his road trip of self-discovery.
It's sad to see a seriously overweight Depardieu lumbering around the screen, but the poignancy of his and Serge's ageing are tempered by some very funny scenes as the character travels from graveyards to vineyards and his various other former places of work. In between the laughs, writer-directors de Kervern and Delépine get you thinking about the live-to-work/work-to-live dilemma, how many people lose their sense of self-worth when they retire and how it can be a chance for a fresh start - if they're willing to make it one.
At times, 'Mammuth' feels like a French version of 'The Straight Story', but in certain scenes de Kervern and Delépine's appetite for the bizarre and unnecessary take away from the film's emotional impact, when remaining focussed on Depardieu's character would've offered more to viewers. That said, it's a memorable and uplifting ride, with two classic examples of cover-your-eyes cinema - in one Serge helps a woman whose leg is in a cast and in the the other he relives old times with his elderly cousin. If there's someone of a certain age in your life who you think might get something out of this movie, just make sure they're open minded before you recommend it!