French film Huit Rue de’l Humanite—English title Stuck Together—must be among the earliest, if not the first, full length feature film about the days of lockdown during the pandemic.
Directed by Dany Boon, who also plays the part of a hypochondriac, Martin, this comedy is mildly amusing but hugely relatable, at least for urban, apartment-living people, who must have gone through experiences similar to residents of the Parisian building.
The families living in this complex also come onto their balconies to clap and beat plates to thank Covid warriors, like many did all over India. People are scared, there is not enough information, news on the TV talks of overflowing hospitals, there is a shortage of masks and sanitizer, and cops ensure that nobody steps out without valid authorization. (An enterprising kid makes money lending a dog to those who need to go out, because dog-walking is allowed!)
An eccentric pathologist Dr Gabriel (Yvan Attal) is trying to create a vaccine, while others in the building try to cope with restrictions. Old Louise’s (Liliane Rovere) bar has shut down, and the obnoxious rich guy, Tony (Francois Damiens), who boasts being an owner while others are tenants, hopes she dies, so that he can buy her property to add to his chain of vape parlours. His wife has left him, his teenage daughter is going stir crazy, and his cute pre-teen son Basile (Milo Machdo-Graner) has fallen in love with the pretty little girl (Rose de Kervenoael) across the courtyard, who happens to be Martin’s daughter. There is a hilarious scene of Basile’s online class, when the father wanders around in his underwear, making all the kids and the teacher on screen giggle.
Martin is so scared of being infected by the virus, that he is always on the verge of hysteria. When his wife Claire (Laurance Arne, who has co-written the film with Boon) goes out for an urgent meeting, he refuses to let her into the apartment, and forces her to sleep on the landing.
A young woman (Alison Wheeler) is heavily pregnant, and constantly sings an irritating pandemic song with her guitar, while her boyfriend (Tom Leeb) teaches his fitness course online. The building’s caretaker is in hospital with COVID, and her worried husband Diego (Jorge Calvo) tries to keep things together. All of them find a common enemy in the ‘outsider’, a Middle Eastern woman (Nawell Madani) living alone and keeping odd hours.
Like many urban dwellers in the West, the neighbours are not friendly till the pandemic hits, and everybody goes nuts being cooped up. Then, they find ways to connect, help one another, to cheer and console.
Oddly enough, they neither wear marks nor observe the social distancing rules, even as a panicked Martin keeps shouting from the balcony that they are too close.
During the lockdown, being forced to stay indoors, neighbours everywhere became closer than family, as everyone found reserves of kindness within themselves and created support systems among the very people they used to sneer at in normal times. The friendship between Louise and Basile is sweet and heartwarming, suggesting that seniors have a lot to offer, if society does not think of them as “useless” like Tony does.
Dany Boon is a well-known French actor (reportedly the highest paid in Europe) and filmmaker, and this OTT release is a pleasant little pandemic diversion, suitable for family viewing. Best to watch in the original French with subtitles, instead of the dubbed version.