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By Shane Gilreath
The American writer, Donald Westlake, said “the trouble with real life is, there’s no reset button.” While I accept its absolute authenticity, I find that to be a hard pill to swallow, and while mistakes might make us grow along life’s journey, they also make us shiver with pangs of regret and embrace a bitter yesteryear that, in our mind’s eye, might have led to more productive paths. I have yet to decide whether those revisits are good or bad; whether they help us right the ship or merely dwell. Recently, I began to re-watch one of my favorite films, the French language Les Petits Mouchoirs, the literal translation of which is “the little handkerchiefs,” but has an English meaning something more along the lines of “sweep it under the rug.” It’s an exploration of friendship, its evolution and all its complexities. We all have those friends who, though we don’t speak daily, we’d take a bullet for and hope they’d return the favor. Those are the ultimate friendships of life, even in their rarity. Though the trip toward the realization may shock the viewer, Les Petits Mouchoirs had them in scripted spades.
In Les Petits Mouchoirs, French actor Jean Dujardin, a year before winning the Oscar for his role as Silent Film star George Valentin in The Artist, costars as “Ludo,” a modern day lothario, who suffers a catastrophic motorcycle accident when leaving a Paris nightclub, throwing his friends into a state of reflection. In his hospitalization, Ludo is visited by this eclectic band of souls, each bringing something new to the friend set, including the free-spirited Marie, played by the ravishing Marion Cotillard (perhaps the only other face recognizable to those blessed congregants opposed to foreign films). In a turn toward the selfish, Ludo’s friends decide that his plight should not prevent them from their summer plans on Cape Ferret in the southwest or France, but the summer – though wild and carefree and doing its marketing best for France – also leads them to explore their own lives and feelings, perhaps the truest form of reflecting life’s sincerity: about one another, their choices, the mistakes they’ve made along the way.
Perhaps, in an inevitable twist, Dujardin’s Ludo eventually succumbs to his injuries, an indication of the brittle nature between here and gone and the decisions of friendship. This, looking back over my life, I emphatically know: time is precious. It shouldn’t be squandered. Like a friends’ trip to Cape Ferret, the COVID years gave us an opportunity to slow down our pace, reassess our lives, and reconnect. It certainly did for me, despite what now feels the post-COVID stride starting to step a little quicker. “C’est la vie,” the French might say, but as the day’s grow shorter, do yourself the favor of knocking on that door, have that drink, reminisce about old times and nurture the friendships and the people who matter to you. If life doesn’t have a reset button, then it’s imperative that we breathe life into the life we have. Appelle-moi. Ma vie est ouverte.