Starring: Blanche Gardin, Laurent Lafitte, Maxence Tual, Nuno Lopes, Marthe Keller
Runtime: 95 mins. Reviewed in Sep 2023
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
A wry story of a 40-something Frenchwoman, facing failure, coming to terms with family and her future.
Everybody loves Jeanne – except herself. The main characters in this study of characters who are in their 40s. They have 20 years of experience of adult life, joys, disappointments, achievements, failure behind them.
We are introduced to Jeanne, an ambiguously sympathetic performance from Gardin, a high achiever with a scientific project for capturing plastic in the ocean. But, then disaster, the machine collapses into the ocean and Jeanne’s desperate dive to save it is captured on photo and video. It is continually reproduced indicating her desperation in the failure.
Which means then that Jeanne is fairly morose throughout the film, touching on depression, lonely, in sombre black, avoiding relationships. As she meets her sympathetic brother, Simon (Tual), to discuss her financial situation, it is revealed she is near bankruptcy. Their mother had committed suicide. And, it would seem, the only way to survive financially is to sell the apartment in Lisbon where she lived and they had grown up.
In case this sounds too sombre, it is important to mention the very important device that the writer-director, Celine Devaux with her first feature film, relies on throughout the narrative. She and her associates have drawn animation interludes. In fact, these interludes are from Jeanne’s interior life and voice, often contradicting her exterior and her behaviour, humorously drawn and with Jeanne’s interior voice.
This animation certainly makes the film different, giving it life and vitality, and also a truer psychological and moral perspective.
Jeanne goes to Lisbon to sell the apartment, encountering a bright and breezy Jean (Lafitte) at the airport. They were students together in the past, not that Jeanne remembers. Needless to say, Jean is more than persistent, making contact in Lisbon, visiting the apartment, pretending to be her husband for a prospective buyer, outings with his niece and Jeanne to the beach – and a strong scene, with some pathos, where he discusses his mental health, committed to an institution for some months, and the aftermath.
Also in the picture is Vitor, with whom Jeanne had a relationship in the past. Again, a bright and breezy character, and choir teacher of Jean’s niece.
There are a lot of quirky episodes with little explanation, miniatures, so to speak, illustrating characters – Jean and his niece suddenly stealing a motor bike and riding off, Jeanne with Simon and his son packing up and going on a spree of smashing plates.
So, a lot of people do love Jeanne in their way, that interior Jeanne sometimes responding, but will she overcome her despondency and believe this?
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