My Best Friend
Francois Coste (Daniel Auteuil) is a successful man. He's an art dealer in an art dealer's dream town: Paris. He has a beautiful daughter, a posh apartment, and all the joys that money can buy. Unfortunately, Francois is without one thing that money can't buy: true friends. Sure, he has acquaintances; but when asked if he has a best friend—someone he'd feel comfortable calling at 3 a.m.—Francois cannot come up with anything. My Best Friend is a brief, blissful little film about one man's search for the rarity indicated in the title. It might sound slight or superficially simple, but it's actually one of the most profound films I've seen all year.
The film, directed by Patrice Leconte, kicks off when Francois's business partner Catherine (Julie Gayet)—who Francois has only ever considered a "business friend"—makes a bet that he won't be able to come up with a "best friend" by the end of the month. Francois, ashamed and too proud to admit he's friendless, sets out to track down his heretofore non-existent best friend. His first stop is the bookstore, where he embarrassingly asks the clerk for a copy of How to Make Friends (which is unfortunately all sold out). Fortuitously, he soon meets Bruno (Dany Boon), an exuberant, uber-friendly local cab driver who appears to be the authority on how to make friends.
The film follows this unlikely pair as they comically undertake a crash-course in friend making. Bruno's curriculum is based on the "three S's": Sociable, Smiling, Sincere. It's hilarious to watch the hapless Francois as he tries to make friends—but mostly just creeps people out. He tracks down his childhood friend and "surprises" him in the supermarket—a scene that almost ends in a restraining order. He goes into a bar and immediately announces "this round's on me"—a well-meaning, if obviously unfounded offering which effectively clears out the place. Finally, Francois begins to see that Bruno—his affable, ever-helpful sidekick—is the best friend he's been missing … right under his nose.
Though the film is a comedy and a crowd-pleaser of the best kind, it does not shy away from hinting at deep and complex issues about human interaction, love, and friendship. The thing that plagues Francois (and, as we find out, Bruno too) is the inability to hold and maintain a deep, unconditional relationship with a fellow human. It's a problem that we all face, to some degree.
Francois is oblivious—at first—to what a real friend is. He thinks that his Rolodex full of appointments, contacts, and phone numbers is evidence of a horde of friends. But "contacts" and "associates" are not best friends. He treats these people as things he can use, but not as souls he can get to know. He knows grievously little about even his own daughter. It reminds me a little of Martin Buber's book I and Thou, in which Buber describes human relationships as being either I-It or I-Thou. The former is Francois's method—the utilitarian objectification of others for one's own fulfillment. Through the course of the film, however, he comes to realize that the latter way—the relationship in which the other is a "Thou," a sacred soul, more than just a name or a number or something to take advantage of—is a far better way to live.