French Language Blog

Le Prénom Posted by on Feb 29, 2016 in Uncategorized


I rarely am awake to watch movies from beginning to end…except if they are spectacular. Well, yesterday, my husband and I stumbled upon a French film on Netflix called Le Prénom–and it was so good I watched the whole thing! The English version is titled “What’s in a Name?,” which differs, of course, from the original title (and evokes thoughts of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet). English subtitles are also available on the version on Netflix.

Le Prénom was released in French theaters in 2012 to great acclaim. In fact, it was nominated for five Césars, which are the equivalent of Oscars in the United States. Valérie Benguigui (who, sadly, passed away shortly after receiving this award) and Guillaume de Tonquédec won Césars for Best Actress and Actor in a Supporting Role. Originally written as a play, it was staged in 2010 before being filmed. The film version still captures this “French theater” feel and, in fact, most of the film is set in the living room of a Parisian couple’s apartment. While the beginning of the film introduces the characters outside of the main action of the plot with more cinematic tricks, the main plot revolves mostly around the characters’ dialogue–and the surprising secrets that are gradually released over the course of a dinner party amongst friends.

The French website AlloCiné, gives the following synopsis:

Vincent, la quarantaine triomphante, va être père pour la première fois. Invité à dîner chez Élisabeth et Pierre, sa sœur et son beau-frère, il y retrouve Claude, un ami d’enfance. En attendant l’arrivée d’Anna, sa jeune épouse éternellement en retard, on le presse de questions sur sa future paternité dans la bonne humeur générale… Mais quand on demande à Vincent s’il a déjà choisi un prénom pour l’enfant à naître, sa réponse plonge la famille dans le chaos.

(Vincent, a triumphant forty-something, is going to be a father for the first time. Invited to a dinner at his sister Elisabeth and step-brother Pierre’s apartment, he spends time with Claude, a childhood friend. While awaiting the arrival of Anna, his young wife who is always running late, the friends question Vincent about his impending fatherhood in general good humor … But when they ask Vincent if he’s already chosen a name for his unborn child, his response propels the family into chaos.)

While this synopsis gives away a general idea of the most basic plot of the story, it doesn’t reveal some of the most intriguing themes of the film. By the end of Le Prénom, viewers are confronted with philosophical ruminations on responsibility and choice, patriarchy and feminism, and even the role of secrets in families and among close friends (as well as illicit relationships). It’s a comedy that will have you roaring with laughter, but isn’t afraid to ask deep questions at the same time.

You can watch the bande annonce (trailer) here–and then make sure to check it out on Netflix:

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About the Author: Elizabeth Schmermund

Bonjour tout le monde! I'm a freelance writer, doctoral student, mom, and Francophile. I'm excited to share some of my experiences living in France, as well as the cultural nuances that I've learned being married to a Frenchman, with all of you. To find out more about me, feel free to check out my website at A la prochaine!


  1. Claire:

    Loved the movie! Watched it last night. Needed subtitles with all of that yelling. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Elizabeth Schmermund:

      @Claire So glad you liked it, Claire!

  2. Sal:

    So…there are subtitles?

    • Elizabeth Schmermund:

      @Sal There are!