Homme du train, L' (2002) - Synopsis

Homme du train, L' (2002)In a sleepy French backwater, a train pulls into a deserted station, depositing a lone passenger: a grizzled man in a fringed leather jacket. He looks like a criminal, albeit an aging criminal, a man who has never before asked questions of life or made deep connections with anybody, arriving for a final showdown, and he is. But, within minutes, he bumps into a local retired poetry teacher in dapper clothes, a man who looks like someone waiting for something exciting to happen, who appears perfectly settled in his life, and he was…until now. Suddenly, these two disparate men are about to find, at the very end of the line, an unexpected friendship, an opportunity to look back on their dashed hopes, and a magical, momentary chance to explore the road not taken.

Patrice Leconte’s award-winning Man on the Train is a simple, humor-filled tale that resonates with deeper themes of friendship and fate, of longing and regret and most of all, of the passage of time and the choices we make. It is the story of two men who might never have met but for an accident, who appear to have nothing in common, yet who change each other’s view of life at the last possible moment.

When the criminal Milan (French rock icon Johnny Hallyday) rolls into town planning to knock off the local bank on Saturday, he assumes it will go off without a hitch. Then he encounters Manesquier (leading French actor Jean Rochefort). A retired poetry teacher whose sedentary lifestyle bores even himself, Manesquier offers Milan a much-needed drink of water in his musty old chateau. The only thing they seem to share is that Manesquier, too, has an important date on Saturday; but his is for open-heart surgery.

From the start, the two men are equally wary of the other. Manesquier senses that Milan is up to no good, while Milan is driven crazy by Manesquier’s incessant talking. But, when Milan is forced to hole up in Manesquier’s mansion until the robbery, the distance between them begins to disappear.

Suddenly, Manesquier wonders what it would be like to trade his books and art for Milan’s gun and life of adventure. Meanwhile, Milan covets Manesquier’s bedroom slippers and cozy life of stability. As their friendship develops, surprising moments of humor and tenderness emerge, as each seemingly defies his personality to explore his yearning for the life of the other.

Saturday arrives. Milan and Manesquier have no choice but to part ways and head towards their different destinies. But even their destinies are no longer the same, for their very dreams have become intertwined.