Belle Vie Image

Belle Vie

By Bobby LePire | March 21, 2022

The most compelling thing about Belle Vie isn’t the observational look at how the COVID-19 pandemic destroyed the restaurant. No, it is the subject at the core of director Marcus Mizelle’s documentary: Vincent Samarco. The French immigrant is kind, courteous, and funny while still firmly knowing exactly what he wants. Samarco will instantly win over audiences with his charming demeanor. Of course, it helps that the film surrounding him is pretty good as well.

Samarco moved to Los Angeles in 2016 with a mountain of French culinary expertise and a drive to succeed. Amusingly, the only place he could afford was a building sandwiched between a McDonald’s and a KFC. But, that didn’t deter him, and after working his butt off, Belle Vie (The Good Life) opened. The restaurant proved to be a hit and was full most nights.

Then came the coronavirus and the mandated closures of restaurants. Then they could reopen with takeaway orders or outdoor seating. But then, restaurants had to reclose! Of course, all these closings and changes cost the owners money, forcing many restaurants to close for good. Can Samarco weather the storm and keep Belle Vie alive?

Then came the coronavirus and the mandated closures of restaurants.”

With Belle Vie, Mizelle wisely personalizes what, to many, remains an abstract, sad fact. But, by focusing on a single restaurant with a small number of employees, the filmmaker makes audience members care on a micro-level. Viewers will care about the ultimate fate of Belle Vie and its employees.

But, the reason the movie is so engaging is because of Vincent Samarco and his wife, Ornella. Instead of outsourcing the needed work to comply with outside dining regulations, Samarco does it himself and is quite pleased with how things shape up. This very eager, always optimistic man is a joy to be around. Hearing him discuss his love of cooking and his restaurant is infectious and delightful. The first of two standout moments is an encounter between Samarco and a Christmas tree salesman. Their interaction is delightful. The second is when the restauranter reminisces about his grandpa.

Belle Vie is technically proficient, but its style is pretty standard as far as documentaries go. However, the overview of restaurants struggling during the pandemic is interesting. But, what raises the bar for the entire production is the choice of subject and Samarco’s charming, affable personality.

For more information, visit the official website for Belle Vie.

Belle Vie (2022)

Directed: Marcus Mizelle


Starring: Vincent Samarco, Ornella Samarco, Cedric Nicolas, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Belle Vie Image

"…makes audience members care on a micro-level."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon