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‘Back to Burgundy’ uncorks uneven family drama

Siblings Jeremie (François Civil, left), Jean (Pio Marmaï) and Juliette (Ana Girardot) must decide the fate of the family winery in “Back to Burgundy.”
Siblings Jeremie (François Civil, left), Jean (Pio Marmaï) and Juliette (Ana Girardot) must decide the fate of the family winery in “Back to Burgundy.” Music Box Films

“Back to Burgundy,” a lushly photographed family drama set in the famous French wine region, dwells pleasantly on the winemaking process, as the capable ensemble cast navigates domestic tensions. But the film’s central metaphor — life is like wine — is an overripe one.

Jean (Pio Marmaï) has walked away from the family winemaking business, leaving Burgundy 10 years ago for Australia, where he produces wine with his girlfriend. As the film opens, Jean has returned home to visit his dying father and reconnect with his sister and brother (Ana Girardot and François Civil).

After their father dies and the three are faced with a huge inheritance tax, they must decide whether to keep making wine, as the family has for generations, or sell the land.

This conflict between tradition and change, between family and money, exposes old resentments. Just as each sibling has a different opinion about the best time to harvest grapes, each also harbors the memory of a personal slight by one another or their father.

In an effort to present as authentic a picture as possible, director Cédric Klapisch filmed “Burgundy” over the course of four distinct seasons. For most of the movie, he deftly choreographs the human drama.

“Burgundy” subtly reinforces the notion that a fine wine can reveal itself only after a slow process of aging (unlike the bottles that Jean and his girlfriend rush to market back in Australia). Unfortunately, the screenplay ignores its own advice: The film’s narrative arc is derailed when Jean delivers this too-on-the-nose message to his girlfriend: “Love is like wine. It needs time. It has to ferment.”

If “Back to Burgundy” were a wine, I’d say it has a complex flavor profile but an overly aggressive finish. To put it in terms that even a mass-market vintner might understand, it’s a bottle that has been served before its time.

(At Glenwood and Tivoli.)

‘Back to Burgundy’

  1/2

Not rated, but contains obscenity, brief nudity and sexual situations.

Time: 1:53.

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