“When I was little, every morning I’d look out the window, and I’d think, ‘Every morning it changes.’
“Yeah, when I was a kid I thought every day was different, and it would always be like that. It would always keep changing. But then I realized that, here, nothing ever changes.”
The dynamic of change and lack of change is explored in the family drama Back to Burgundy (French title: Ce Qui Nous Lie, ‘What Binds Us”). It is the story of the reunion of three siblings on their family’s vineyard. There is much that is the same as it has always been, but also much that changes day by day.
Oldest son Jean (Pio Marmaï), whose thoughts open this review, left home years ago to see the world. When he learns his father is dying, he returns home when his sister Juliette (Ana Girardot) now runs their vineyards. Their brother Jérémie (Françoise Civil) has married into one of the premiere winemaking families in the area. Naturally, this is a time of both joy and turmoil. There is love between these people, but there are also resentments that have grown through the years of Jean’s absence.
After their father’s death the three must figure out what to do with the family’s estate, given the large tax bill they are facing. As they work together through the year-round vineyard activities, they must negotiate not only the business aspects, but more importantly their relationships must go through much of the same kinds of changes that the vineyards face.
The film makes great use of the Burgundy countryside and the various aspects of winemaking. We see the vineyards through various seasons. We watch as the siblings taste grapes and debate which day will be the best for harvest, and later what grapes to combine into the wine. But all this visual celebration of wine also serves as a metaphor of the relationship the siblings must reestablish. As the film says at one point, “Love is like wine. It needs time. It needs to ferment.”
As the three siblings (and later Jean’s wife and son) interact, they slowly come to find peace with both their pasts and the present. For that to happen, they must recognize the parts of themselves and their relationships that are immutable, and also to discover the newness that can come each day—just as Jean noticed as a child looking out his window.
Photos courtesy of Music Box Films