Wild Reeds (1994) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • In a village in the Southwest of France, 1962. Maite and Francois are 18 years old. They are friends, not lovers. In Francois's classroom, there are Serge, whose brother has just married to try to escape from the war in Algeria, and Henri, a pied-noir (Algerian-born Frenchman). Francois and Serge will have a homosexual relationship, but Serge wants to marry his brother's wife...



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  • Set in southwest France in the year 1962, the film is a coming of age story of three young people François Forestier (Gaël Morel), Maïté Alvarez (Élodie Bouchez) and Serge Bartolo (Stéphane Rideau). François is a shy young man from a lower middle class background, working for his baccalaureate (high school diploma) at a boarding school. He is a close friend of Maïté, whose mother Madame Alvarez (Michèle Moretti) is a French teacher at his school. He spends most of his time talking about movies and literature with Maïté. Mme Alvarez and Maïté are communists.

    The film begins with François and Maïté attending the wedding of Pierre Bartolo (Eric Kreikenmayer) a former student of Mme Alvarez. There they meet Serge who is the groom's brother and is a classmate of François. François considers him a bit dumb. Serge's family is originally from Italy. At the wedding party, Pierre asks Mme Alvarez to help him get out of the army which is fighting in Algeria but she refuses.

    Later in one of the French classes we get introduced to an Algerian born French exile Henri Mariani (Frédéric Gorny). Henri is older than his classmates because he had flunked 3 times at a private school where he was studying before. He is obsessed with events in Algeria and supports the OAS, which opposes Algerian independence and defends the rights of French settlers there. One night Serge joins François in the dormitory to chat. They end up having a sexual encounter. They also agree to help each other in their respective strong subjects of French and Mathematics so that they both can get their baccalaureate.

    François discovers his homosexuality and develops a deep attraction for Serge and confides this discovery to Maïté. She accepts this news and tells him that she doesn't care what he does with others because their friendship counts for so much more. Later we see François and Henri in a conversation in which they talk about their fears and how Henri had once tried to kill himself after his father had died.

    Pierre dies while serving in the army in Algeria, and Maïté's mother suffers a nervous breakdown, having previously refused to help Pierre desert. After the funeral Maïté goes up to Serge to console him, when he decides to go for a swim. While in the water he confesses that he is attracted to Maïté. Maïté is flattered but says that she is interested in no one at the moment and what she would really like is to be 10 years older so that she can have a life of her own.

    Later in the dormitory, Serge tells François that he blames Henri for the death of his brother. During the conversation Henri comes to them and Serge and Henri get into a fight. In trying to break the fight, François gets injured. Henri later tells François that he only bothered them because he thought that Serge, like him, understands war now that he has lost a loved one. He also bluntly tells François to own up to his homosexuality.

    Subsequently François meets Maïté where he praises Henri which disgusts Maïté. She says that he is only praising Henri because he wants to sleep with Henri. François agrees and says that he is cursed by wanting to sleep with any boy that he is attracted to. Maïté tells him that he will soon grow out of this phase like Monsieur Cassagne (Michel Ruhl) who is a shoe store owner and now lives with his long term partner.

    To replace Mme Alvarez, Monsieur Morelli (Jacques Nolot) teaches the French class where they have a recitation of "The Oak and the Reed", one of Aesop's Fables. At the end of the class he offers to help Henri in his studies. Henri initially refuses but later comes to the extra classes that Monsieur Morelli had offered.

    When Serge stops coming to school, François goes to meet him at his residence. He tells François that he had a sexual encounter with his brother's widow Irène (Nathalie Vignes) and now is thinking of marrying her even though he doesn't really love her. Later they go to Toulouse where Serge gets completely drunk.

    Later, after one of the leaders of O.A.S. is given life imprisonment, Henri disillusioned with his present life decides to quit school. While walking to the train station he comes across a communist party pamphlet on which the address of the local headquarters of the communist party is given. He goes to the location with the intention of burning it down but sees Maïté there studying. Though having opposite political views, Maïté invites him for a cup of coffee during which they read one of Henri's mother's letters which Henri has not read yet. He later confesses to her about his intention to burn down the building but couldn't proceed after seeing her. She asks him to get out. Later we find that Henri was expelled by the school board during a conversation between Mme Alvarez and Mon. Morelli.

    While waiting for their exam results François, Maïté and Serge decide to go for a swim. While Maïté goes to a shop to buy a bathing suit, François goes to Monsieur Cassagne's shoe store to ask him for advice on his love life. Monsieur Cassagne nervously says that he cannot help him as he has forgotten what happened to him during his youth. Meanwhile Serge accuses Maïté of never staying alone with him to which Maïté replies that she is scared of him because he would ask for physical intimacy which she cannot give. Later they are joined by Henri who has stayed back at a hotel and is to catch a train in the evening.

    At the river, François and Serge get into the water and swim. Maïté decides not to go because she now does not like the bathing suit. So François and Serge leave Maïté and Henri behind. Henri later confesses to Maïté that he is attracted to her and the real reason he hasn't left is that he wanted to see her once more. Maïté tells him that the feeling is mutual and they later make love. Meanwhile François asks Serge if they would be sexually involved ever again to which Serge replies that their earlier sexual encounter was for him just done out of curiosity and it was best if they forget all of it.

    After their lovemaking, Maïté asks Henri to leave saying that even though they love each other that was no reason to stay together. She later joins François and Serge as they make their way back to the school.

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