Theme: Few & Many
Stories usually are divided into three parts. A situation is set up and then it is upset and, finally, it is reset. Or you might call the three parts: situation, challenge and response or creation, fall and redemption.1 The Ridley Scott movie, A Good Year follows the basic three act pattern while adding a prologue and epilogue. It is a gem of a film with a wonderful message about what really matters in life.
Prologue: "A Few Vintages Ago"
The introductory clip sets the stage for the entire film. Playing chess with his Uncle Henry, a young Max Skinner cheats in order to win........and he rather enjoys it.
Act One: "Set Up" London
Grown up Max is now a highly successful trader in the London financial markets. We learn a lot about him in just a few short scenes. Greed and money are the game he plays. Losing is not an option; winning is everything. He has an empty life relationally, living alone in a glass tower. Max has made it all the way to the top by not always playing fair. His assistant, Gemma, sounds a prophetic warning, "They re going to bury you face down, Max".
Act Two: "Upset" Provence
Max's Uncle Henry dies leaving him his estate in Provence. Max travels to France to settle the estate intending to return to London the same day. From the moment he arrives, everything is downhill visually and literally. The small car, the trouble with directions, and the broken diving board all are bringing him down....down....down. He ends up face down in dirt - buried, so to speak, in an empty swimming pool.
The pool is a metaphor for Max's life. Flashback scenes show it to be a place of beauty and joy in Max's early years. Now it is empty and full of dirt, rather like Max himself. The broken diving board is a picture of a broken man.
Forced to stay in Provence, Max is immersed in Henry's world, his own original world. The longer he is there the more powerful is the effect it has on his senses, his memories and his heart. All are awakened by love - the atmosphere of La Siroque.
London keeps chiming in literally as if to try and break the spell Max is succumbing to. Charlie arrives on the scene to force the sale of the estate, reminding Max that he doesn't "do weekends or holidays", but what he does do is make money. Act Two ends with both Fanny and DeFlot confronting Max with what his life has become - a life not suited to this place, a life that cannot be trusted.
Act Three: "Reset" London
Max returns to London where his boss, Sir Nigel, puts the question to him. "What will it be Max, money or your life?" Sir Nigel, of course, is referring to a cash buyout or a lifetime partnership in his firm. But the question goes much deeper than that and is the plot of the whole movie. What will you choose Max....Money (London) or Life (Provence)? How Max answers that question is based on two things: love and reality.
He remembers his first love. His childhood meeting with Fanny, and the swimming pool comes to him in a flashback scene that is Edenic in beauty and innocence.
He sees the absurdity of owning an original Van Gogh painting only to hide it in a vault and hang an expensive "knock off". Sir Nigel never sees the beauty of the real one because money blinds him. He literally loses sight of reality - of what is real and of what is really valuable.