This premise of this movie just isn’t breathtaking. Two boys in France build a car and take a journey. Yawn. Wake us when they get there. That made it all the more surprising that the slow little film was such a delight. Take a break from overproduced dramas with dense soundtracks for a comedic escape with Microbe and Gasoline, disparaging nicknames earned in the schoolyard by a pair of adolescents who are unlikely companions. Microbe is really Daniel (Ange Dargent), so named because of his small stature and nerdy interest in science, and Gasoline is Theo (Théophile Baquet), the new kid at school whose pleather jacket and handiness with motors leaves him resembling a grease monkey. The plot requires significant suspension of disbelief: that the teens can construct the vehicle at all, that with its assemblage of scrap lumber and windows it survives even a mile on the road, that their parents don’t completely freak out when their children disappear for a few days near the start of summer vacation. The last part is probably most unbelievable because of the differences in European and American attitudes about what kind of exploring is healthy for kids versus what kind of misbehavior requires a call to the National Guard or the issuance of an Amber Alert. There’s also a memorable scene where Daniel’s mom wants to talk about masturbation, which is cringe-worthy in either culture. But if you can tap into the fruit of their imagination and remember some modicum of the awkward difficulty and discovery of adolescence, the story is even richer.
Director Michel Gondry also wrote the screenplay, which relies on imagery as much as pithy dialog. Most of the conversations in the script take place between Daniel and Theo, and the actors don’t overdo it, keeping the cadence right and the array of emotion believable. Plus, their talks are short and thoughtful. Their antics incite laughter and their heartbreaks, sighs. Going along for this ride is surely entertaining.
Microbe and Gasoline