Film Review: What’s in a Name?

Sonia Clarke reviews What’s in a Name? (released in France as Le Prénom) the French-Belgian comedy written and directed by Alexandre de La Patellière and Matthieu Delaporte:

The first French film I ever watched was La Reine Margot, which to my – admittedly very young – eyes largely consisted of lots of violence interspersed with lots of sex. Always one to make snap yet enduring judgements, I grew up with a stereotypical view of film from across the Channel as unrelentingly bleak, supported by the fact my family inexplicably owned a VHS copy of Clockwork Orange in French.

(As an aside, it also demonstrates how hilariously slack my parents were at censoring our TV intake given the internet was some way off being readily available and I would have been 11 when La Reine Margot came out.)

As it’s good to tackle stupid stereotypes head on, I’m pleased to report What’s In A Name? could not be more opposite to my traumatic childhood experience.

Set in the Parisian apartment of Élisabeth and her husband Pierre, the action revolves around a dinner party attended by Élisabeth’s brother Vincent, his wife Anna, and their childhood friend Claude. Without giving too much away, Vincent, who is about to become a father for the first time, throws the party into chaos when he reveals the name he plans to call his son. Put it this way – Katie Hopkins would not be letting her kids play with this one (admittedly no great loss).

The revealing of the name sets in motion a chain of conversations which lays bare some of the group’s most hidden secrets and some of the frustrations they have found dealing with each other over the years. Unsurprisingly for a film that started life as a play, the cast is small and largely restricted to one location – but it translates well onto the big screen thanks to strong performances from all and razor-sharp dialogue which veers from light-hearted banter to dramatic fights which leave relationships hanging in the balance.

All in all: Funny, charming, and very French. Also, I don’t think it’s too much of a plot spoiler to say that no-one dies.



Review by Sonia Clarke.