Magazine article Screen International

'News from Planet Mars': Berlin Review

Magazine article Screen International

'News from Planet Mars': Berlin Review

Article excerpt

Dir: Dominik Moll. 2016, France/Belgium, 101 mins

The News From Planet Mars is quite simply that there's not much of interest going on there. That's bad news for admirers of German-born French writer-director Dominik Moll, who made a stir with his darkly comic Harry, He's Here To Help (2000), followed it up with the boldly surreal Lemming (2005) and at the very least emerged honourably from The Monk (2011), a bold and surprisingly faithful adaptation of one of the first Gothic novels. After such idiosyncratic efforts, it's all the more disappointing to see him settle for the merely amusing in this low-octane comedy about a likeable regular guy whose life is spinning farcically out of control.

Mars' strongest suit commercially is the presence of Belgian star François Damiens, a Euro box-office regular in films such as 2014's The Belier Family but also esteemed for his work in artier stuffsuch as Katell Quillvéré's Suzanne and last year's Cowboys by Thomas Bidegain. But it seems as if there's nothing here which is sufficiently distinctive to trouble the export market.

Damiens plays Philippe Mars, a middle-aged, divorced office worker troubled by dreams of space-suited interplanetary travel. He's also visited by the inexplicably shrinking ghosts of his late parents (Michel Aumont and Catherine Samie). In the real world, while his ex-wife Myriam (Léa Drucker) is in Brussels as a TV reporter, careworn but stoically patient Philippe is looking after his children, earnest swot Sarah and distracted Grégoire, played to engaging effect by Jeanne Guittet and Tom Rivoire. …

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