“Microbe and Gasoline” is not just a lighthearted road trip around France, but truly a journey for the soul. From director Michel Gondry (“Mood Indigo,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) comes a delightful coming-of-age French film, seen for the first time in American theaters.
Aspiring artist Daniel (Ange Dargent), also known as “Microbe” for his small stature, is best friends with Theo Leloir (Théophile Baquet), called “Gasoline” by school bullies due to his distinctive smell. As they confront bullies at school and avoid trouble at home, they form a special bond as misfits who haven’t quite figured out their place in the world. Through their meaningful and shockingly blunt conversations with each other, about anything from sexual identity to sibling tensions, they begin their journey towards discovering what the outside world has to offer, free of parental supervision.
This is definitely a French film. The cinematography, the acting, the script and the characters are undoubtedly not the typical Hollywood-style fluffy personas. The characters feel like real people with real, and quite awkward, problems. The ending is abrupt, with loose ends everywhere and practically no happy ending for anyone. Its ending is reminiscent of what happens in reality — not the Hollywood “happily ever after,” but bittersweet closure.
The film is not shot with flashy effects and fancy wardrobes, but has a down-to-earth, artistic style. Gondry places special emphasis on the fact that the characters are just two boys trying to find their way in the world, reflected by the simplicity of the outfits and settings. Instead of a journey to Paris, these boys go around the countryside in search of something greater: a sense of self. The boys use scraps and motors from a junkhouse to build a mobile home, and escape to the countryside to take a break from society’s pressures. They’re trying to find their very own “amour propre.”
Calm, thought-provoking and relaxing, “Microbe and Gasoline” will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled through the awkward stages of adolescence. The characters’ witty dry humor will make you chuckle, and their quote-worthy lines stick in the mind for a long time, even after the credits are over.
Contact Grace Lam at gracelam95122 ‘at’ gmail.com.