FOR SANDRINE Dumez (Mathilde Seigner), the soft-spoken Parisian in Christian Carion's "The Girl From Paris" ("Une Hirondelle a Fait le Printemps"), it's time to eschew the city life and the urgent protestations of her mother (Francoise Bette) and run a farm.
An agricultural studies grad, she has decided to apply her theory to a lifetime of practice. When she visits the farm of retiring owner Adrien (Michel Serrault), her heart is set. It's a beautiful but remote spread, located in the Rhone-Alpes region, and Adrien is looking to sell. Or is he? In this sweet, soothingly paced French film, that's one of Sandrine's two biggest problems. The old fellow, easily the grumpiest man in that particular time zone, has misgivings about leaving a place that has meant so much to him. He's not inclined to trust anyone to take over his farm, let alone a woman from Paris with a degree. And he sells the place with a big clause: He wants to stay on the premises until his intended new home becomes available. He doesn't expect to move for months. And then there are the rabbits he wants to keep looking after.
Sandrine starts out with capitalistic vigor. As Adrien looks on with evident disapproval, she finds new ways to make ends meet. She sells goat cheese to Germans on the Internet. She organizes tours. She offers horseback riding. Adrien shakes his head and waits for the real test: winter.
Which is part of the other big problem: nature. As Sandrine rapidly learns, being a farmer is far from idyllic, whether it's the harsh winters, the trauma of birthing stillborn goats, electrical breakdowns or the relentless, physical routine. Adrien doesn't help matters with a revelation of a past disaster at the farm that has left him broken and despondent about farming in general.
She's lonely, too. Her only romantic prospect is Gerard (Frederic Pierrot), a former boyfriend from Paris who makes it clear he'd like her back in town. But Sandrine remains determined to stay. Or does she? After a particularly harsh season, she thinks seriously about returning to the city. But by this time, she's grown more attached to the old man than she'd thought possible. And his deteriorating health makes the tug of war even more difficult.
The movie, which Carion wrote with Eric Assous, has a calming quality. The story moves slowly but, given the milieu and pace of life, this seems perfectly appropriate. The "action" of the movie, we realize soon enough, is between Sandrine and Adrien, between the former computer scientist and the jaded, rural loner. Just as the seasons change, so does their relationship.
THE GIRL FROM PARIS (UNE HIRONDELLE A FAIT LE PRINTEMPS) (Unrated, 103 minutes) -- Contains depictions of animal slaughter. In French with subtitles. At Visions Cinema/Bistro/Lounge.