The question of when the right time is for a child to leave home is asked over and over again in Tanguy. It is first established that seventeen is too young – and when a child decides to leave this early, he leaves a gap behind him, sadness and hurt. However, when a 28 year-old man who earns more than his parents, who is in a serious relationship and who has a busy life filled with parties, work and travelling, keeps putting off leaving home to start a life of his own, then there’s a whole different issue to deal with. Having your child around for too long, cleaning up for him, cooking for him, hearing him having sex next door and having him hang out with your friends, will eventually get to you. And when it does, you’re left with no other choice than to make his life a living hell…
French director Étienne Chatiliez delivers a very clever black comedy that hilariously describes the Mediterranean sociological phenomenon of grown-up adults still living with their parents even after their mid-twenties — a generation problem which involves intelligent, talented, studious, hard working, big earning, capable men and women who have been given numerous opportunities by both their parents and society and who have developed impressive skills, but who still need their parents’ protection and approval in order to carry on living. The screenplay sign Étienne Chatiliez and Laurent Chouchan, filling it with brutally honest, admittedly mean, although never mean-spirited, confessions. The whole film from beginning to end is a guilty pleasure. You watch it knowing that none of the characters should be doing what they’re doing or saying what they’re saying. Yet you’re glad they do, you like that they take all pressure and guilt off their audience and you thank them for being strong enough to take full blame.
Sabine Azéma and André Dussollier are great as Edith and Paul Guetz, Tanguy’s parents. They’re tired, fed-up and desperate for their lives back, but at the same time they love their son, want him to be happy and to feel loved by them. They are the exaggerated version of every couple torn between wanting their grown-up son to be in their lives but also to get up and get a life of his own. Éric Berger plays Tanguy Guetz so brilliantly that he manages to make every single viewer hate him right from the get go. The parents are no doubt very convincing and you can totally sympathise with what they’re going through, but with a character or an actor any less annoying, their extreme actions would come across malicious and very much over-the-top. In other words, Berger’s Tanguy is so irritating, that nothing that the parents can do to him will ever be drastic enough.
In fact the story and Tanguy himself are so well-presented, that in all Mediterranean countries, and especially France, the word Tanguy has become the term to describe an adult man who still lives at home with his parents at quite the late age. Although all these countries are known to enjoy a special family closeness that many English-speaking territories might envy, some satire on the matter was long time coming and needed and with Chatiliez is finally put into hilarious words: I hate our son… He makes me sick. His good manners, his never-ending smile… His damned thesis… Edith Guetz, portrayed by Sabine Azéma.
There is no question about the fact that Étienne Chatiliez’s Tanguy is an all-around Mediterranean film. Any other couple of parents, from any English-speaking country, would have kicked the child out of the house long before they needed to start feeding him expired yogurts or hoover outside his room at 5am in order to make him want to leave. But for the Mediterranean audiences, Tanguy is describing a well-known problem. And it is mocking it in such a dark and sharp way that it removes all guilt of considering it a problem in the first place off of you.