Veteran French writer-director Becker comes nowhere near the refinement and precision he achieved in My Afternoons with Margueritte and Conversations wth My Gardener in this diverting but formulaic and occasionally trite odd-couple comedy drama.
In part that must be ascribed to the inexperience of 19-year-old Lambert, whose one-note performance as a troubled teenage runaway is noticeably unequal to that of the veteran Chesnais.
He plays a 60-something painter by the single name of Taillandier, who is stuck in a creative rut that has blossomed into depression if not a full-scale existential meltdown. The fact that he has so much to be happy about - financial security, a good marriage, successful kids, adoring grandchildren - makes it even worse.
When he decides to hit the road - just after buying a shotgun - we may feel inclined to fear the worst.
But a bedraggled teenage runaway called Marylou (Lambert) seeks refuge in his car at the lights and the story abruptly shifts direction.
The relationship that develops between them cannot completely avoid sleazy innuendo (though the hotel clerk and waiter responsible for it are soon put in their places). He's more like a father to her daughter as he tells her to tidy her room and goes looking for her when she stays out too late.
The fact that he gets his mojo back is entirely predictable but it's hard to divine what makes this happen. Is the moral that we should be less self-absorbed?
The history of art would be somewhat barren if that idea had caught on.
Cast: Patrick Chesnais, Jeanne Lambert, Miou-Miou
Director: Jean Becker
Running time: 92 mins
Rating: M (violence) In French with English subtitles
Verdict: Diverting but formulaic