Dir: Sylvie Verheyde | Cast: Flavie Delangle, Marina Fois, Benjamin Biolay | France, Romantic drama 110′
A dizzy iconic soundtrack captures the glories of first love and life in the six form in this frisky and freewheeling feature from France’s Sylvie Verheyde. Stella in Love is a cinematic breath of fresh air, and just the kind of film to get the Golden Leopard Competition rocking at Locarno Film Festival’s annual lakeside jamboree.
Not happy at being back at school for her final year after her blissful beach holiday with the girls, seventeen-year-old Stella (a laconic Flavie Delangle – who also narrates) is still reeling from the euphoria of sun, sea and sex. Lost in the reverie of nights with her Italian boyfriend – a first – the return to normality has come as a shock to the system, not to mention the autumn chill in Paris where irreverence is the name of the game. Her mother and father have split, the teacher is boring her with his views on Marxism, or was is Marxist Leninism? Who cares when you can drift off and dream of your lover and swimming in the Med.
In a haze of cigarette smoke and red lipstick Stella – often rocking a chic black cashmere beret – navigates problems at home, a furious feud with her mother (a feisty Marina Fois) a neon-bathed bittersweet birthday party with the gang, life on the breadline, and the shock revelation that her father (Benjamin Biolay at his most louche) has a new baby son. Then she meets Andre.
Stylishly sashaying from night clubs to the stark light of reality, the stress of final exams and working part-time in a bar, there are quieter moments too: secrets shared and thoughts revealed with her best friend Gladys. Christmas spent mooching with her sour-faced mum and the Easter holidays on horseback on a wild, windswept coast. Verheyde has come a long way since her directorial debut A Brother in 1997, and she certainly captures the mood with Stella in Love, reuniting her with the heroine of her third feature Stella (2008). Now at the top of her game Verheyde certainly knows how to make a romantic drama – and this is one of her best. MT
LOCARNO FILM FESTIVAL 2022 | GOLDEN LEOPARD COMPETITION.