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Willy the 1st

Willy 1er

Willy the 1st

Willy 1er Screenings
  • France
  • 2016
  • 82 minutes
  • In French with English subtitles

Winner of the Prix d’Ornano for Best French Debut as judged by foreign film journalists in France, Ludovic Boukherma, Zoran Boukherma, Marielle Gautier, and Hugo P. Thomas’ dramatic comedy is a funny and ultimately deeply affecting amalgam of fiction and reality based on the life of non-professional actor Daniel Vannet. He plays Willy, a slow, socially challenged 50-year-old man who lives with his twin brother Michel (Vannet again) and their parents on a hardscrabble farm in Normandy. After Michel hangs himself, Willy is bereft—doubly so when his parents say they are going to institutionalise him. ‘Get stuffed!’, he says. ‘I will have a place of my own, a scooter, and some friends!’ And off he goes…

At the centre of this droll, poignant, and visually ambitious film is a fantastic and totally realistic performance from Vannet. As he tells us in a voiceover at the beginning, his twin brother and only companion really did hang himself. Locals play extras and the depressed town of Caudebec is shown in a realistic light (one charming joke has Willy seeing Caudebec as the metropolis of his dreams). The film doesn’t sugar-coat anything: Willy is not a sentimental caricature (in fact, he can be frightening when angry) and small-town attitudes—homophobic and otherwise—are shown for what they are. As Willy grapples with the vagaries of life on his own, a moving portrait of a tragically stunted man (Vannet only learned to read at 45) coming to life emerges. You can’t help but be affected. ‘[Vannet] delivers a touching and vanity-free performance that combines understated melancholy with deadpan drolleries.’—Boyd van Hoeij, Hollywood Reporter

Cast: Daniel Vannet, Noémie Lvovsky, Romain Léger, Eric Jacquet, Alexandre Jacques, Robert Follet

Writer-directors Marielle Gautier and Hugo Thomas will attend the Opening Night screening on Thursday at 19:30 in Cinema 1.


English title
Willy the 1st
Original title
Willy 1er
82 minutes
Pierre-Louis Garnon, Frédéric Jouve
Ludovic Boukherma, Zoran Boukherma, Marielle Gautier, Hugo P. Thomas
Thomas Rames
Xavier Sirven, Héloïse Pelloquet
Hugo P. Thomas, Sofiane Kadi
Prod. companies
Baxter Films / Les Films Velvet / M141 Productions
Sales agent
Baxter Films