Directed by Jean Becker, starring Jacques Villeret, André Dussollier, Thierry Lhermitte, Benoit Magimel, Suzanne Flon, Isabelle Candelier, Bernard Collins and Damien Jouillerot.

Rebel-in-the-making Lucien (Jouillerot) thinks his Dad Jacques (Villeret) is an embarrassment. Not only is he Lucien's teacher at school, but he also moonlights as the village clown, The Amazing Zozo. Forced to sit through another one of his Dad's routines at the village festival, Lucien is taken aside by family friend André (Dussollier) and told the story of how Jacques found his comedy calling.

During the Occupation, both André and Jacques were in love with the same woman, barmaid Louise (Candelier). Deciding to do their bit for the Resistance - and at the same time impress Louise - André and Jacques blow up the signal box at the local train station, thereby causing havoc for German soldiers heading to the front. A foolproof plan looks very foolish, however, when the duo and two other men (Lhermitte and Magimel) are taken hostage by the Germans, and told that they will be shot unless the saboteurs come forward! Imprisoned in a hole at a quarry, the four try anything to keep their minds off their impending executions, learning that both kindness and salvation can come from unlikely sources.

Balancing the feelgood with the serious is no mean feat, but Becker's film of Michel Quint's best-selling book mixes laughs with a strong message and turns out to be an unexpected treat. In veterans Villeret and Dussollier, he has a great comedy double act, constantly bickering and wondering if they should confess to the 'crime' they are going to be executed for, anyway. And if 'Strange Gardens' feels a little short, the perfectly-measured performances of all those onscreen more than compensate. It will only get an audience by word of mouth, so why not get the ball rolling?

Harry Guerin