This is another film that has great charm. As with most films about growing up it takes place over a summer; the period between school terms is always the best position for a film that explores coming of age. In this French film by director Michel Gondre, two boys set off for central France from their Paris suburb in a vehicle of their own making. It takes a certain suspension of disbelief but the ride is worth it.
There are elements that are the same as the American film ‘Kings of Summer’. Boys want to escape their confusing homes and overbearing parents and build a substitute home that has what can only be called ‘set designer take on what a child would build’. In this French film, though, the home is also a car so the boys can take to the open road.
The title comes from the not particularly flattering names given to them by their peers at school. When Theo arrives as the new boy he is quickly nicknamed ‘Gasoline’ because he tinkers with engines. He is an outsider in the same way as Daniel or ‘Microbe’ and the two become allies. They spend time together and build an engine from scraps so that when the summer comes, they escape in a car disguised as a small house.
The journey takes them through France where they meet various people of different levels of eccentricity. Daniel has a destination in mind. He loves a class mate and he knows where she stays during the holidays. Theo knows that he lacks the courage to tell her how he feels and encourages him to act on his feelings but Daniel is plagued by self- doubt, not helped by the fact that he is mistaken for a girl because of his longer hair.
The ending when it comes, as it must because, in films of this nature the close of the summer holidays brings things to a conclusion, is not predictable. What is clear, though, is that Daniel and Theo have both grown as a result of their journey.
‘Microbe and Gasoline’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?