It’s a concept we’ve seen onscreen before: manchild suddenly becomes primary caretaker for baby, makes all sorts of goofs; there are invariably a few poo jokes, and hilarity supposedly ensues. Luckily, The Stroller Strategy brings a fresh twist to this tired tale, as only the French can do.
As one of the few women who is, at this juncture, less-than-impressed by babies, I was concerned that this film wouldn’t have a lot to offer me, but writer/director Clément Michel kept my eyerolls to a minimum by building the story around a believable relationship between Thomas and Marie, the absolutely gorgeous main characters played by Raphaël Personnaz and Charlotte Le Bon. Through a slightly gritty indie-film lens, we see the couple’s relationship blossom from first meeting to breakup, and beyond.
The reason this love doesn’t last is an all-too-familiar problem for twenty-to-thirtysomethings: two people are in love, but they don’t grow at the same rate, and as the gulf widens in their life trajectories, one of them gets tired of the friction and decides it might be easier to face life alone. In this case, it is Marie who makes a memorable exit when she realizes Thomas is nowhere near ready to share her dream of procreating.
The baby pops into the picture in a most unexpected way, but, though he gets a lot of screen time, he doesn’t hijack the story; he just serves a unique vehicle in this case for Thomas to mature to Marie’s level. There are some absurd situations between Thomas and baby Leo that elicit a few chuckles, not to mention constant laughs from the supporting cast. Jérôme Commandeur is hilarious as Paul, Thomas’s ridiculous friend who keeps an arsenal of baby items to impress the ladies, and even Michel himself steps out of his role as director to make a cameo as a laughable washed-up children’s singer. But while there is plenty of humor, The Stoller Strategy’s best attribute is the truth it somehow manages to mix into all this fantasy.
The visual elements all work to support the gritty modern love story. Rather than portraying Paris with the usual soft-focus romantic cinematography, the city is portrayed as a more colorful, livable environment. The costumes, too, set a Wes Anderson-like tone and often serve, in otherwise serious situations, as comic relief.
Though there were a few scenes that could have been cut shorter, the plot contains many crossroads moments that will keep the audience guessing, and overall, this is a charming film that was obviously treated with a lot of love from all parties involved.
The Stroller Strategy opens in LA on June 28th. Watch the trailer.