Cockles and Muscles is a delightful, light-hearted tale of the intricacies of modern French family life.
Set in the sea side resort of Côte d’azur where mechanic father, Marc (Gilbert Melki) and his half Dutch wife Beatrix (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) take their son Charly (Romain Torres) to enjoy an idyllic summer in the house that Marc spent his youth.
As the film opens, Charly eagerly awaits the arrival of his best friend Martin played by the stunningly beautiful Edouard Collin. Martin is openly gay whilst Charly’s sexuality is deliberately ambiguous. In an attempt to wind up his parents, he implies that he is himself gay whilst refraining from actually saying the immortal words “Mum I’m gay.”
The apparent drama of teenage sexuality rekindles the adolescent desires within the parents. Mother Beatrix is heavily involved with another man, Mathieu (Jacque Bonnafeé). A relationship that in itself is odd as he is hardly attractive and in many ways a bizarre and camp figure as he prances naked out of the bushes.
Meanwhile, the issues of homosexuality immediately agitates Marc, making him incredibly uncomfortable. Walking in on Martin furiously masturbating in the shower rekindles his sexual desires and immediately sleeps with his wife, with whom he had obviously had a less than physical relationship with.
In a rather predictable twist, Charly stumbles across his fathers ex-lover in a popular crusing ground when he tries to find Martin who is desperately searching for sex, having forcred himself to abandon all hope of a relationship with his girl like best friend.
The film culminates in what writers Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau call a “number of blissful unions and song,” a truly spectacularly camp ending to a delightful film of love and feelings that transcends genders and sexual norms.