Dir/Wri: Celine Devaux | Cast: Blanche Gardin, Laurent Lafitte, Maxence Tual, Nuno Lopez, Marthe Keller | France, Drama 95′
Jeanne founded an ecological startup to save the world from plastic. Now on the verge of bankruptcy she has some tough decisions to make about her future in this cross between a screwball comedy and a reflective romantic drama.
First time director and illustrator Celine Devaux opts for a jokey narrative device featuring animated inserts of a female version of ‘Mr Blobby’ voicing Jeanne’s worst fears, hopes and melancholy musings. These illustrations actually interrupt the narrative flow making you wish the director would just get on with a story powerful enough to carry a drama that gets more and more enjoyable as it finds its groove, although the message it finally delivers is a bit of a cop out feminist-wise. Not sure whether this was what Devaux originally intended.
Fortunately Jeanne happens to have inherited her mother’s place in Lisbon where she grew up with her brother Simon (Tual). So off she heads to the sun to clear her debts with the sale. On the way she meets old school friend Jean (Lafitte on top form as a pain in the arse) and spends the flight wondering whether she fancies, or finds him deeply irritating. This dilemma is soon resolved when Jean is met by his wife and little daughter, and also turns out to be loaded – in a withering twist on Jeanne’s own financial failure. She, by contrast, is met by her ex Victor (Lopez) who is also now a father, and married into the bargain, although she re-kindles secret desires to bed him. And it’s these amusing insights that make the film entertaining and Jeanne so appealing as a character who everyone can relate to: a woman who is not afraid to be disliked but also wants to be perceived as doing something worthwhile, while suffering the secret need to be loved – a tough call but one that Blanche Gardin pulls off successfully in this impressive feature debut.
In Lisbon she sees her mother everywhere in the flat – a hoarder who nagged about her never calling. So clearing out the flat is the last thing on her mind. Gradually slumping into a low level depression she escapes into the sandy beaches and mellow sunsets of the Portuguese capital until the unexpected arrives in a soft-pedalling finale. MT
NOW ON RELEASE IN FRANCE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | CAMERA D’OR 2022