A promise of happiness that turns into a nightmare. This is how we can summarize the fiction Les Malvenus, directed by Sandrine Veysset (Will there be snow at Christmas?, in 1996, Martha… Martha, in 2001), written with the novelist Virginie Despentes.

Happiness is the opportunity that opens up, thanks to an inheritance, for Luc (Jonathan Zaccaï), an engineer, and his partner, Carole (Géraldine Pailhas), an artist, to flee Paris to start a new living in the south of France by moving into a beautiful property surrounded by vineyards. Except that the house, separated into two parts, the couple acquired in joint ownership with Luc’s brother, who was quick to rent out his property.

Barely settled into their new nest, Carole thriving in glasswork and tai chi classes, Luc busying himself with building a shelter to raise snails, the two fifty-year-olds see a young couple arrive, Fred ( Yannick Choirat), Marisa (Sophie Guillemin), their teenager Samuel (Simon Zampieri) and their two dogs. They don’t have to wait long to understand that they can put an end to their dream of zenitude, sabotaged day after day by their rude and shameless neighbors.

War of nerves

The situation could lend itself to caricature, the couple of bobos in casual chic outfits, drinking producer wine while reading in front of a fireplace facing the big-mouthed rustics fueling beer. However, Sandrine Veysset and Virginie Despentes provide a keen observation of this confrontation between two completely opposite homes, focusing on the progressive deterioration that promiscuity causes in the relationship between Luc and Carole. While he chooses to make the effort to share a few moments with these annoying neighbors, even hiring their son for DIY work, she cannot repress her disgust at people lacking education.

Supported by effective dialogues, the production connects short sequences which are so many blows to the serenity that Parisians thought they had found in their little corner of nature. The actors excel in the interpretation of their characters, notably Jonathan Zaccaï as a somewhat cowardly guy who is especially concerned to avoid tensions and Sophie Guillemin as a rustic who adds to her rudeness to exasperate her bourgeois neighbor.

As we suspect, the war of nerves will increase, the film, which began as a scathing fable about class contempt, gradually takes on the appearance of a thriller as it progresses. We then think of Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s feature film, As Bestas (2022), about a couple of neo-rurals played by Marina Foïs and Denis Ménochet, pushed to the limit in a hostile Galicia. There, it is in the vineyards that the matter will eventually be resolved.