Credit: Cannes Film Festival
by Michael Sicinski Featured Film

Jim’s Story — Arnaud Larrieu, Jean-Marie Larrieu [Cannes ’24 Review]

May 27, 2024

The fraternal duo of Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu have been making films together for around 25 years. An early featurette of theirs, Roland’s Pass (2000), screened in the New York Film Festival’s Main Slate, and they’ve even had one film, 2005’s To Paint or Make Love, selected for competition at Cannes. Nevertheless, the Larrieus have not achieved the exalted heights of other auteurs of their generation, and this is despite ongoing working relationships with some of France’s most accomplished actors, including Mathieu Amalric, Karin Viard, and Sergi López.

In truth, I have not seen the Larrieus’ previous films. But based on their latest effort, Jim’s Story, I obviously should have been paying close attention all along. Bowing in that strange, slushy Cannes Premieres section, Jim’s Story is a startlingly direct emotional tale that follows the life of Aymeric (Karim Leklou), a gentle, patient man whose essential goodness opens him up to unexpected joy and sorrow in nearly equal measure. With his deep-set eyes and doughy visage, Leklou resembles a cross between Jason Segel and the bug-eyed police detective from Bruno Dumont’s L’humanité, and much like that character, Aymeric moves through life with a palpable wonder and confusion, as well as an openheartedness that is sometimes his undoing.

We meet Aymeric shortly before a group of his high school friends convinces him to tag along while they break into a house and steal a painting. He is the only one who gets pinched, and he ends up going to prison. After that, he never really gets his life back on track, working a series of temporary jobs and kicking around the countryside near Lyon. One night he runs into Florence (Laetitia Dosch), a woman he knew from before he went to jail. She is six months pregnant, by a married man who has no intention of breaking up his family. But Aymeric does not care. He and Florence become a couple, and he is present as she gives birth. They name the baby Jim, and Aymeric raises him as his own.

Years later, Jim’s biological father, Christophe (Bertrand Belin), comes back into the picture and wants a relationship with Jim. The trio attempts a co-parenting arrangement, but little by little, Florence edges Aymeric out of Jim’s life, despite the fact that he is an ideal, loving father, the only one Jim has ever known. Florence, Christophe, and Jim all move to Montreal, and Aymeric never sees his son again. To make matters worse, he discovers that Florence has lied to Jim, telling him it was Aymeric’s decision to abandon him so he could start a new family.

Adapted from a book by Pierric Bailly, Jim’s Story is quite surprising in that it manages to avoid mawkishness at every turn. Aymeric is no saint, but he is indeed a decent person who, unlike most of those around him, puts other people’s needs first, especially when it comes to Jim. The Larrieus, with an unobtrusive but lyrical directorial style, carefully depict the infelicitous consequences of meeting the world with fundamental decency. Jim’s Story offers no easy solutions, but does hold out a glimmer of hope that, in the end, selfless love will gain its due reward.

Published as part of Cannes Film Festival 2024 — Dispatch 3.