Ad­ven­tures of a ‘wild lit­tle mon­key’

The Irish Times - - Friday Life Film & Music - TARA BRADY

JE­UNE FEMME ★★★★★ Di­rected by Léonor Ser­raille. Star­ring Laeti­tia Dosch, Gré­goire Mon­sain­geon, Souley­mane Seye Ndi­aye, Léonie Simaga, Nathalie Richard, Erika Sainte. Club, lim­ited re­lease, 97mins

Free-flow­ing drama is tricky to pull off. Too of­ten, the term is a po­lite eu­phemism for in­co­her­ence. Shape­less­ness, how­ever, is the only shape that be­fits Paula (the re­mark­able Laeti­tia Dosch), the rud­der­less, ridicu­lous, rapturous 31-year-old hero­ine of this won­der­ful, ki­netic film. This femme isn’t all that

je­une. In fact, she’s old enough to have been traded in for a younger model. A vex­ing, vi­o­lent open­ing se­quence sees Paula pound­ing at the door of her older ex-lover, first with her fists and then with her head. In hos­pi­tal she is treated for her wounds while gab­bing fu­ri­ously about her ro­man­tic predica­ment. Cut to a party. Cut to the streets. She makes enemies fast, and friends faster.

She has no money. She has no place to stay. She does, how­ever, have her for­mer lover’s cat. The cat theft isn’t quite as de­mented as it first ap­pears. There’s a dys­func­tional and pos­si­bly abu­sive do­mes­tic his­tory lurk­ing in the small de­tails. Joachim (Gre­goire Mon­sain­geon) was her col­lege lec­turer when they met. He be­came fa­mous for an early pho­to­graph of her. Their 10-year re­la­tion­ship cut Paula off from her mother and left her en­tirely ill-equipped for nor­mal hu­man in­ter­ac­tions. Ev­ery time she stops calling him, he starts calling her.

Mostly, she tears around Paris like a whirl­wind, fi­nally find­ing a job sell­ing un­der­wear at a depart­ment store and a home as a live-in nanny to six-year-old Lila (Li­las Gil­berti-Poisot).

The girl is more grown-up than her min­der. Ev­ery silly, some­times well-in­ten­tioned act threat­ens to pull the rug from un­der Paula’s pre­car­i­ous ar­range­ments. Lila’s strict diet is now sup­ple­mented by can­dyfloss and sweets. Paula pre­tends to play a wind in­stru­ment – a fam­ily heir­loom – just as her stern em­ployer walks through the door. The cringe is strong with this one.

For all the os­cil­la­tion and crazi­ness, there’s some sense of per­sonal growth. Her em­ploy­ment is en­try level, but she’s hang­ing in there. Paula’s ro­mance with Ous­mane, a wildly overqual­i­fied se­cu­rity guard (Souley­mane Seye Ndi­aye), is im­pul­sive, but health­ier than her last re­la­tion­ship. “You know what you re­mind me of?” Ousame asks her. “A lit­tle wild mon­key.”

It’s tempt­ing to place Léonor Ser­raille’s Cam­era d’Or-win­ning com­edy on the same, messy axis as Chan­tal Ak­er­man’s Jeanne Diel­man, 23 Quai du Com­merce, 1080 Brux­elles or Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag. Although Je­une Femme (orig­i­nally ti­tled Mont­par­nasse Bien­v­enue) is ul­ti­mately more upbeat than those projects, there’s a white-knuckle sense of emo­tional free fall pow­er­ing ev­ery fraught scene. Clé­mence Carré’s fluid edit­ing and Ém­i­lie Noblet’s nat­u­ral­is­tic cin­e­matog­ra­phy pro­vide per­fect com­ple­ment to Dosch’s soar­ing, free-spir­ited turn.

■ Laeti­tia Dosch in Je­une Femme

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.