In a nutshell: Microbe & Gasoline is a charming off-beat coming-of-ager featuring a pair of misfit schoolboys who find validation in their friendship.
The mystery of the strange title of this charming little coming-of-age flick is cleared up when the two main characters are introduced. Microbe and Gasoline are the nicknames bestowed upon a couple of geeky misfit schoolmates by their derisive peers (the arty, unconfident and self-absorbed Microbe is small for his age, while mouthy mechanical whiz Gasoline rides a self-made bicycle fitted with a mini petrol engine).
With the summer break approaching, the lads decide to go on a road trip through the French countryside in a house-on-wheels built from scrap parts at Gasoline’s direction. Their cute lawnmower-engine-powered contraption is unlicensed, of course, as are they. Their strategy is to stick to quiet rural roads and set down off the side at first sight of a cop – who gets busted for staying in a tiny house? With accommodation and legal issues thus resolved, they embark on their grand adventure at dawn. Without informing their parents, naturally.
It’s a rather ludicrous set-up but easy to go with, since it’s evident that this is a whacked out contemporary take on a Boy’s Own-style tale, not a realist piece. Further, the lads are bright endearing characters, and terrifically played by a pair of well-cast young actors, who obviously relish carrying on a well-scripted and entertaining banter throughout. The loquacious Gasoline is full of dryly witty observations on the adult world and ever-ready with life advice for the self-doubting Microbe, who is obsessed with a girl from school and despairing about his chances of getting anywhere with her.
In the course of their puttering sojourn, they encounter (and escape) an over-welcoming couple looking to fill the gap left in their lives by their adult children who have flown the coop, a Korean gang of pimps running a massage parlour, and a gypsy camp that is burnt to the ground by rampaging local authorities.
If the boys end up a little wiser, it is due to their friendship, rather than their adventures on the road. Indeed, this is more a film about two odd bods finding validation in each other than a typical coming-of-ager. By the bitter-sweet end, they care less about the society they do not fit into, and you’re left with the sense that they are well on the way to accepting their individuality en route to colourful and different lives outside the mainstream. Fist pump from moi.
You can catch Microbe and Gasoline at the upcoming Alliance Française French Film Festival. There’s another charmer on the program I caught at a one-off showing earlier this year, The Student and Mr. Henry (bring your tissues to this one). Several others have featured at the 2016 Perth International Film Festival, including the following, which I have already reviewed: Blind Date, Dheepan, The Brand New Testament. The festival closes with Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 classic Contempt, featuring La Bardot in her molten prime.
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