Dir.: Agnès Troublé; Cast: Lou-Lélia Demerliac, Sylvie Testud, Jacques Bonnaffe, Douglas Gordon
France 2013, 120 min.
In Je m’appelle Hmm… Agnès Troublé (aka agnès b) turns her considerable talents as a fashion designer to the big screen. Eleven-year-old Céline (Demerliac) is regularly sexually abused by her unemployed father (Bonnaffé), whilst the mother (Testud) is working long nights as a waitress. Feeling suicidal, Céline absconds during a school trip to the seaside, and hides in a truck. The Scottish driver Peter Ellis (Gordon), suffering from the loss of his family, lets her be, not asking much about her – even when he sees her photo on TV, he does not inform the authorities of the whereabouts of the missing child. The two bond without many words, but finally the police catch up with them. A medical examination of Céline shows that she is not a virgin anymore, and Peter is accused of statutory rape.
What could have been a low-key observation, is blown up into a pseudo-dramatic show-piece by its first time director. Experimenting wildly, from distorting the images by over or under-development, over or under-saturating the colours, to a sudden (and meaningless) monochrome sequence, she treats the film as an aesthetic test set, disregarding her serious nature of her material. Rather than trying her ideas out in short form, before embarking on a full-length feature, everything is thrown into the pot to ‘see what happens’. Characters are introduced, only to vanish without having served any purpose in the narrative. Rather disturbing dream-sequences with Japanese mimes undermine any clarity even further. The director simply uses every artistic trick in the book to show off. Because of her amateur status, she can’t judge what is important to the narrative, and so she overloads the film not only with an overkill of “special” images, but with narrative strains, which are superfluous or even detrimental to this serious subject. And just when Celine’s father promises on her return “not to bother her again”, Troublé uses intertitles in the calligraphy from her ‘agnes b’ range on the nearby wall “The wall of silence”. Product placing could not be more insensitive.
Great performances, particularly by Demerliac and Gordon, as well as the grim subject matter deserve a much more serious treatment – not one so flip and desperate for attention. Glamour has a place in the fashion world, but not when dealing with such delicate subjects as child abuse. AS
ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 17 October 2014