“A girl out of nowhere, sent by a dead woman.” That description of its catalyst makes Renoir sound like a thriller. But this film is actually a relaxed, visually lush tribute to Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir and his son Jean, who was to become one of France’s most esteemed filmmakers.
The “girl out of nowhere” is aspiring actress Andree Heuschling (Christa Theret), a red-haired, orange-clad gamine who bicycles through the opening scene like a creature from another world. The women she passes as she rides are dressed mostly in black, while the men are generally in uniform and often horribly wounded. It’s 1915, and wartime France is not the happiest of places.
Renoir’s estate on the French Riviera is a refuge from all that. Indeed, the colorful, sun-dappled property seems like Andree’s natural habitat. No wonder Renoir’s wife, who has recently died, had encouraged the young woman to visit.