One drunken evening, Pierre, an explorer writer, fell several stories high. This accident plunged him into a deep coma. On his hospital bed, back to life, he made the promise to cross France on foot, from Mercantour to Cotentin. A unique and timeless journey to encounter hyper-rurality, the beauty of France and the rebirth of oneself.
This free adaptation of the autobiographical story that the writer Sylvain Tesson published in 2016 is one of those works whose appreciation depends entirely on the state of mind of the viewer. Obviously, Sur les chemins noirs struck a chord with the French. More than a million of them showed up in cinemas, making a surprise success of this contemplative film, built around the story of a man trying to rebuild himself in solitude.
Directed by Denis Imbert (Vicky, Mystery), Sur les chemins noirs focuses above all on the inner adventure of a broken individual, who tries to repair himself in a natural setting that is both sad and spectacular. By deciding to cross France on foot from Mercantour, in the south-east of the country, to Cotentin, in the north-west, Pierre (Jean Dujardin) thus has the opportunity to cross grandiose landscapes, but also to come face to face with the harsh reality in which the rurality we are deserting is now plunged.
In a role that is not very obvious to play, Jean Dujardin very well evokes the inner torment inhabiting his character, despite a voice-over narration that is sometimes too intrusive, set with somewhat hollow formulas. Denis Imbert also punctuates his story with flashbacks – at times superfluous – to explain where this man, at 50, promised himself to give himself a second chance after coming out of a deep coma.
In this slow-paced film, some will immediately identify with the protagonist and see this story as a pretext for meditation or inner introspection; others will find the whole thing a bit sluggish. But in a context of general tumult, a feature film which, beyond its qualities and its faults, gives the opportunity to rest a little will do good to the spectators who will accept the nature of the journey.