Exploring the entangled intimacy of twins, Pascal-Alex Vincent’s Donne Moi La Main is a road trip with a difference. But it’s no straight story.
Oh Brother Where Art Thou? by Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers.
You have to love this film. If for no other reason than for bringing Colette Magny’s 1963 hit chanson Melocoton to the big screen. Its catchy refrain provides the title for Pascal-Alex Vincent’s Donne Moi La Main as well as its story in a nutshell, two boys alone and against the world with only each other for support. But hitchhiking their way through France to their mother’s funeral in northern Spain, the brothers discover that maybe it’s time to let go.
Like Colette Magny’s forlorn boys Melocoton and Boule d’Or, twins Antoine and Quentin are colour coded (Antoine the one in the grey hoody and scar). Which is a good thing, as it’s not always easy to tell who’s screwing who as the twins fight and grind their way south. Donne Moi La Main starts with a manga-style prologue, the rucksacked twins escaping their father’s bakery at high speed, Antoine outrunning Quentin and narrowly clearing a level crossing just before a train thunders through. In five short minutes, Vincent niftily sketches out the film’s story in a nutshell – the twins’ complex universe of intimacy and rivalry.
It’s a road trip in the style of Agnès Varda’s Sans Toit Ni Loi with only a delicate narrative thread driving the twins south as they encounter various people en route. From garage-girl Clementine who quits her job for a packet of cakes and a Nouvelle Vague joie de vivre or the close-lipped, frustrated mountain woman who cares for an unconscious Antoine, the twins meet people always willing to give them a ride (or a handjob). Featuring a special guest appearance from Katrin Sass of Goodbye, Lenin! a fellow traveller who comforts a guilt-ridden Antoine, Donne Moi La Main takes great delight in these chance encounters, the catalyst for the brothers’ barrage of veiled looks.
Despite an inevitable culture of competition between the twins, there are brief glimpses of the deep bond that ties them together, Quentin dawdling behind his brother clutching his sweatshirt or a fleeting intimacy with one draped round the other’s neck. Their special status as twins also means their sexual awakening is a journey they undertake together; Quentin the more experimental, Antoine mostly content to abstain and spy on his brother’s sexual exploits. Comparing themselves against each other and afraid to confront the beckoning adulthood that ultimately will separate them, the twins’ relationship is fascinatingly complex, encapsulated in Quentin’s intense gaze as he watches Antoine take a wash in the river.
Their eventual split is all the more inevitable in that the twins appear to be differently inclined. While Antoine may be the sporty socialite and Quentin the reclusive artist, it’s only when Antoine discovers Quentin having sex with migrant worker Hakim and subsequently selling him to a punter in a station cafe for 100 Euros that things really fall apart. Whether an aggressive act of revenge or a pragmatic means of continuing their journey, the twins are torn apart and Quentin disappears. We follow Antoine’s search for his brother, but as the twins go their separate ways, there’s a void the film never quite recovers from. They only meet again after their mother’s funeral to fight out their pent-up aggressions on a beach. And when one of them nearly drowns, you get the feeling this time the rupture is final.
A tangled web of veiled looks, Donne Moi La Main is at times incredibly perceptive, at others meanderingly vague, the wide-eyed looks not always quite enough to motivate the twins’ actions – it’s a small wonder the introspective Quentin gets up and sings 1960s pop hits to a band of seasonal farm workers. Nevertheless, the film neatly conveys the intense and at times tense bond that unites the twins, unable to rationalise or externalise the complex, conflicting feelings they have for one another. But with its American indie film aesthetic of rolling plains, backwoods trains and rotor vanes, Donne Moi La Main is a free-spirited, free-roaming joy. Just more coming-of-age than coming-out.
Donne Moi La Main is released in the UK on 16th April 2010.