a little added something
3 min read/Published On: July 1, 2024/539 words/

A Little Added Something

Twice a year I drive to the nearby city, collect J, (a now middle-aged member of our extended family) – and the two of us go to the head-quarters of a large organisation on the edge of the city where, for that evening, their large conference facility is transformed into a theatre.

J has serious learning difficulties and is part of a group of about forty adults like himself who – with a lot of support and direction – put on a show for family and friends twice a year, in July and December.  I have mixed feelings about these events.  The fact they start at 6.30p.m. and performers have to be there by 6.00 mean that I typically spend almost an hour in rush-hour traffic driving the eight miles from my home to his – and then another half-an-hour driving to the venue with J, beside me, compulsively rubbing his hands together in a mixture of profound anticipation and abrasive anxiety.  He would like to leave home for the venue at 4.00 rather than 5.30, to be sure of getting there on time – but having complied one year and regretted the additional 2.5 hours spent on a hard chair with a lot of excited screeching and calling around me, I now stick to my guns; we always get there on time. The mixed feelings are about the impact these performers have on me, as they sing and dance and wave their arms and so openly are caught up in their absolute enjoyment of the event.  A few are totally non-verbal and others have physical disabilities as well as their learning disability – and there are fleeting moments when they look lost on stage – but for the most part there is a joie-de-vivre which is humbling for those in the audience.

So I can understand why the film ‘Un P’tit Truc en Plus’ (A Little Added Something) is having such an impact on cinema audiences in France.  It tells the story of two thieves who rob a jeweller and end up (because of their botched escape plan) on a coach taking a group of young adults with disabilities for a holiday in rural France.  It wasn’t expected to be a box office success (one eminent French critic described it as a ‘generous comedy, but worthy of the Care Bears’!) but it was feted at the Cannes film festival and it is predicted to become the biggest French film hit since at least 2019.

So what is the secret of the success of this very low-budget film?  Could it be that it takes the audience back to that fairly primitive place within us all of sharing the uncomplicated enjoyment of the performers in a tale of kindness and friendship?  Perhaps its impact has been greater because of the world doldrums that are threatening to overwhelm us? Certainly, there are hopes that it will impact how people view disability in France, infamous for its dearth of provision of facilities for the disabled (8,258 disabled French people, including 1,250 children, are currently homed in Belgium due to a national shortage of French facilities).

See what you think. It will be crossing the Channel soon.  I feel that we all need ‘a little added something’ in our lives.

Martha and Rachel