The Scottish preacher Ian Maclaren said, “Be pitiful, for every man is fighting a hard battle.”

In Nicole Garcia’s sweet, tender and complicated film “Going Away” (“Un beau dimanche”), we meet a collection of French weekenders with their battles.

All have money flow problems, some with an abundance, others with less, but at least they are all interesting to spend time with.

The opening scenes take place in what appears to be a scary stable, dark and wet, like a 19th century debtors’ prison. All of this will eventually unfold.

Then we find ourselves in a nice school somewhere in southern France, where we meet Baptiste Cambière (Pierre Rochefort), a simple young man in his 30s with a cinnamon beard and tousled hair. His students appear to enjoy him. Baptiste is a soft-spoken teacher who travels from school to school as a part-time substitute and, to the consternation of the principals, refuses to stay in one job more than three weeks.

This day, Baptiste is preparing for a nice, long weekend on his motorbike before he goes to his next school, when he notices that one of his students, Mathias (Mathias Brezot), has been left at the gate waiting for a father who seems to have forgotten him.


Baptiste offers to give the boy a ride home, where his daddy, who thought it was the boy’s absent mother’s week at the wheel, is preparing for his weekend in Monaco with his impatient new girlfriend.

So who is Momma Sandra and where is she? On the beach at Montpellier, Mathias tells his teacher.

Baptiste reluctantly offers to drive Mathias there on his motorcycle, to where his mother works as a waitress.

As one might have suspected, Momma Sandra (Louise Bourgoin) is quite the slender beach beauty, with a life-weary attitude and several tattoos, who has some outstanding debt with a crew of shady thugs, and has only days to repay it, or the crew may threaten to add to her tattoos. The pot boils.

After a few sunny hours, mother and son and the helpful but reluctant teacher become friends who might need each other. Now we have three for the road who are going away. But to where?

Soon we’re in Languedoc for crabs and wine and revelations. Sandra and Baptiste float around each other for a bit, and then, seduced by the warm sun and soft breezes, spend an hour together in the dark, and something approaching love glows in the dark. The pot simmers.


The next day after hours on the road, Baptiste and his new friends arrive at his gated and stone-walled family home, where once inside, we learn more about his past, and where we meet his brothers, his sister and the nicest surprise of the film, his mother, a quiet, sophisticated matriarch wrapped in soft linen and played with dignity by our Dominique Sanda.

Sanda, even lovelier and, as Mother Cambière, an aging woman on the soft edge of her dotage, is a good deal warmer and more mature than when we last saw her, as the ingenue at the center of “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.” Mother has secrets to share, and the opening dark scenes are explained. The brothers Cambière, surprised at the resurrection of Baptiste, offer good news for their wandering black sheep sibling.

Director Nicole Garcia, who holds a firm hand with her cast, is an actress and writer best known for her films “Alias Betty” and the 1980 “My American Uncle.”

The script, co-written by Garcia and Jacques Fieschi, wanders a bit and suffers from a few holes; but in the final scenes, the pot cools, and all is well … or is it?

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and film actor.

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