Bonjour Timothy

It's a lonng time since I’ve seen a movie that gives as much sweet-tempered, innocent fun as Wayne Tourell’s Bonjour Timothy. And, because it’s a New Zealand- Canadian co-production, it has to rate as our local industry’s most good-natured comedy yet. Publicity calls it a “contemporary coming-of-age love story”.
Under protest, Auckland teenager Timothy (Dean O’Gorman) agrees to billet a French exchange student. Expecting a boy, Tim discovers at the airport that his guest is a gorgeous Quebecoise girl, Michelle (Sabine Karsenti). Naturally, Timothy falls in love at once and spends the rest of the film dancing around Michelle trying to prove himself.
No. David Parry’s screenplay is not the most original concept in the world. Jangling bells in my memory recalled a movie from the early 80s, Bill Forsyth’s Scottish comedy Gregory’s Girl, which had a very similar premise: awkward, gawky, almost nerdish boy tries to impress beautiful girl; through trial and error, boy learns that the best way to impress is by being himself.
Thus too in Bonjour Timothy.
But between them, Parry and Tourell have given the familiar tale a rich New Zealand flavour.
Tim’s mum (Sylvia Rands) flutters round cooking. Tim’s dad (Syd Jackson) swills beer while watching the All Blacks on the box and shouts “Yew bewdy!” when they score a try. At Avondale College, Tim’s classmates divide into nerds like himself and intimidating jocks like the awful Derek (Richard Vette). Auckland’s hinterland comes on like a tourist brochure, and some of the movie’s high points are Every Boy’s Daydream. So who wouldn’t like to score the winning try, in slow motion, while the cheerleaders cheer? And who wouldn’t like to instruct a beautiful French girl in Southern astronomy under a star-drenched sky?
I didn’t say it was subtle, but then subtlety isn’t the point certainly not in a movie where Timothy’s idea of “acting French” means donning beret and striped T-shirt while sucking on a Gauloise. What is the point, when all the pawky humour is admitted, is a very close approximation to how teenagers see themselves. Dean O’Gorman’s self-conscious, jerky, apologetic and eager—to—please Timothy is nearer to most teenage boys’ idea of them selves than the celluloid heroes they usually ogle.
With its intended audience of younger teenages, Bonjour Timothyshould really hit the button. I understand a sequel, Gidday Michelle (Timothy visits Montreal) is already in production.

North & South Review by Nicholas Reid - February 1996

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