Polisse

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Director: Maïwenn

Polisse, (the name being a childish version of the word ‘Police’)  is not for the faint-hearted. Documentary-style Polisse tugs at the heartstrings and slaps us in the face with the harsh reality of life in the Juvenile Protection Unit of the Police Department in Paris.

Melissa (Maïwenn herself), a journalist who arrives to investigate the Juvenile Protection Unit falls for Fred (played by Joey Starr) – a sensitive yet quick-to-temper character, who already has a wife and daughter. Although this may seem like one of the simplest ‘forbidden’ love stories of all time, it is complicated by the interweaving relationships between the various members of staff. The stresses of their jobs affecting their relationships with both friends and partners.

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Talking to children about the abuse they’ve suffered is not an easy job, as the film covers.

The great thing about this film is that it’s jam-packed with emotion – believable emotion towards child-abuse. This, teamed with documentary-style footage, keeps a ‘realistic’ element to the whole film. For me, documentary is a very effective way of conveying drama in a workplace. For example, look at Entre les Murs (otherwise known as The Class); the documentary style keeps it from looking too clean and too perfect, it enables us to connect with the cast and understand the situations that they find themselves in. 

Although I can highly commend this film for not holding back on the details, I would not recommend it to everyone. For those of you who find scenes of child abuse or scenes of talking about child abuse disturbing, this film is not for you. Similarly, those who can’t deal the idea of abortion, you might want to skip one of the scenes. It has to be said, that this scene definitely made me shed a tear. It manages to be halfway between tender and clinical. The young girl who whispers “sorry” to her child, reflects on the sad necessity of abortion that is so debated today. The fact that the baby can be used as evidence against the young girl’s rapist is also a point worth making: it doesn’t ‘protect’ the audience, the way a more ‘classic’ film might do and it shocks you. You are seeing what the characters see everyday.

Not only is there a vast array of characters in the Juvenile Protection Unit, but there is also an array of characters among the victims and abusers alike. We see those who are greasy slimeballs, to those who don’t understand what has happened, to those who ‘just can’t help themselves’. You do not warm to all the police force – in fact you may find yourself siding with Iris (Marina Foïs) or Nadine (Karin Viard). 

Polisse is definitely worth a watch: it tackles modern issue which are much in debate today. For example, we witness Nora (played by Naidra Ayadi) tackling sexism in Islam and Fred undergoing the procedure of bathing his daughter, telling her that ‘daddies don’t go in the bath with daughters’. Polisse doesn’t just deal with the drama in the victim’s world as well, it’s necessary to understand that it deals with the victims in the police force – those who cannot deal with stress, those who lose the case for being too emotionally involved.

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“Where does it say [in the Qur’an] that women cannot work?”

Overall, Polisse is a little long and has a slightly bizarre ending but is well-constructed and elegantly done in terms of handling such delicate situations: it does not bombard you with sick images, nor does it drown you in morals. It hands situations to the audience and they can decide how they feel about them. Some may complain that it can come across boring or confusing in parts, which I would agree with. The ending left me racking my brains for what could have led to that outcome. For me, it almost felt as if the writers needed a definite ending and this was the way to go.

7/10

Vocabulary:

frotter – to rub 

tromper qqn – to cheat on somebody

 un fugueur, une fugueuse – a runaway (from home)

les vergetures – stretchmarks

un foyer – a home

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Elle s’appelait Sarah

sarahs key

Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner

Based on the chilling novel by Tatiana de Rosnay which focuses on the 1942 Vel D’Hiv Round Up, Elle s’appelait Sarah manages to balance subtle horror with family ties.

Watching films about the Holocaust is usually a bad idea for me as I often end up as a blubbering mess by the end of it. However, Elle S’appelait Sarah (or Sarah’s Key) intrigued me: two stories of different lives weaving together – focused around one apartment.

Julia Jarmond (played by Kristin Scott Thomas), an American journalist living in Paris moves into the same apartment inhabited by the Starzynski family 60 years prior. Investigating the Vel d’Hiv round up of 1942, Jarmond discovers the story of Sarah who escaped the concentration camps in order to free her little brother from the cupboard she locked him when they were rounded up.

Michel and Sarah, rounded up 1942

Michel and Sarah, rounded up 1942

The beauty of Elle S’appelait Sarah lies in the delicacy in which it’s filmed. We do not see the majority of truly gruesome scenes: though it deals with death in a very matter of fact way. It also focuses on the kindness of strangers towards those in need. Sarah, teamed with her new friend Rachel, escape the camp thanks to one of the guards who helps them under the barbed wire, perhaps convinced by Sarah’s determination to free her brother from the closet. They come across an elderly couple who hide the two girls, until Rachel succumbs to her fever and dies shortly after being taken in. The elderly couple help Sarah find her way to Paris in order to save her brother.

Unlocking the cupboard

Unlocking the cupboard

We see how easily families can be torn apart in crisis. Not just literally as they were in the camps but also figuratively: Sarah’s parents – especially her father – chastise her for locking her brother in a cupboard in order to save him from the round up. Flashing forward 60 years and we see how the strain of what the apartment has become for Jarmond affects her relationship with her husband Bertrand Tezac (played by Frédéric Pierrot who you may also recognise as Jérôme from Les Revenants), whose family acquired the apartment shortly after the Starzynski’s were rounded up.

Delving through history, we skip through Sarah’s life as she grows up, trying to put the past behind her. The film, although focusing on guilt and shame, doesn’t feel heavy. We feel that eventually, Sarah is at peace and put to rest.

The acting is brilliant by all the cast: especially the younger actors. They manage to breathe life into an otherwise miserable and depressing time, keeping us hooked. Whilst our hearts are in our mouths, it’s the right level of nervousness, putting us in Sarah’s shoes as she desperately tries to save her younger brother.

The film is easy to follow though not for those who want to be fully immersed in a story: we are pulled from getting too attached to Sarah’s story as the film often flicks to Jarmond’s life. I would recommend it as an interesting and insightful watch, and is a relatively tame watch compared to films on the same subject such as The Boy In The Striped Pajamas. 

8/10

Vocabulary

les projecteurs (m) – searchlights

ombre – shade

fil de fer barbelé – barbed wire

les papiers d’identité – identity papers

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Camille Redouble

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Directed by Noémie Lvosky

Charming, funny and heartwarming, I wasn’t expecting much from Camille Redouble and was pleasantly surprised.

It could be said that Camille’s life starts off as a mess: a raging alcoholic, in the process of divorcing her husband and selling her flat, Camille’s life does not seem to be going well. She attends a party on New Year’s Eve, drinks too much and falls down, only to wake up in hospital: in 1985.

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Interested in boys, music and fashion: the group of friends from ’85.

With a reverse ’13 going on 30′ storyline, Camille Redouble doesn’t promise a great deal. Although we see Camille played constantly by Noémie Lvosky, and therefore not transform to a younger version of herself, we’re drawn into the playful character she plays in contrast to the older and more miserable Camille. I can’t fault the acting as she molds herself around the sixteen year old who is desperate for fun – almost tricking us into believing that she has actually become younger by 25 years.

The basic storyline is her trying to avoid her future-husband, Eric (played by Samir Guesmi – the cop in Les Revenants for those of you who watch it) at la lycée, in order to avoid a lifetime of misery. Although it starts off well, I find that the actual story is a bit loose: there are a lot of ends left untied and often flings happen without much explanation as to why. The twist here is that she wants to keep her teenage daughter, Josepha (played by Judith Chemla – recognisable from 17 Filles). 

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A prime example of the 80 fashion

As far as films go though, Camille Redouble is entertaining. It certainly is an easy watch and plays on the fashion of the 80s – from clothes to music. It is possible to feel as if you understand Camille and her friends – in terms of losing your virginity, rebelling at school and surviving with ‘bitchy’ girls who rate you on attractiveness. I do feel that it is a little bland however, and lacks character depth. I would like to see the development of more of the characters of the girls she is friends with. 

It is not short of touching moments either: confronted with her concerned parents who Camille has not seen in years, we see her make the most of time with her parents, such as recording their voices and playing under the table (an apparent family tradition) whilst they serve galette des rois

Although 13 going on 30 was a film more about romance and changing who you become in the future, Camille Redouble focuses on the important relationships between friends and family. It’s in no way trying to be a clever film  and that’s what makes it so effective. It simply answers the question that all of us ask ourselves from time to time: What would I do differently?

I find Camille Redouble a little patchy at the end – I’m not sure how it ends, but that could just be me not picking up on vital signals which is often the case. Overall though, it is an enjoyable watch and easy to pick out language from.

5/10

Vocabulary

le gamin – kid

dépêchez-vous – hurry up

réfléchir à qch – think over something

donnant, donnant – fair is fair

c’est un glacier dans l’hiver – it’s an icebox in the winter 

17 Filles

17 Filles

17 Filles

Directed by Delphine and Muriel Coulin

Inspired by true life events which took place in Gloucester, USA in 2008, 17 Filles is the modern story of female solidarity, dreams and growing up, which entices us with its down-to-earth approach and amiable characters.

Lorient, France. 16 year old Camille finds out that she’s pregnant during a routine health check at school. Deciding to keep the baby, she receives more than enough support from her friends who form a pact – they will all get pregnant in order to stay together. The pact holds the girls together like glue. Although originally only 4 girls from the ‘inner circle’ decide to join Camille in her pregnancy, more and more girls join, forming friendships.

17 Filles depicts the idealistic values of the 17 girls – wanting to bring their children up together whilst staying in school. Camille tells her friends that she’ll have “two lives: one at school and one with the baby”, whilst the others nod in agreement. They also claim that the 16 year age gap is brilliant – they can connect with their children, much more than their own parents can connect with them. How hard could it be?

Standing in solidarity at the pharmacy

Standing in solidarity at the pharmacy

However, several dark undertones bring us down to earth at regular intervals. For example, one of the ‘younger’ characters, Clémentine (played effortlessly by Yara Pilartz) struggles with being the ‘baby’ of the group and longs to rid herself of her virginity, eventually offering to pay the father of her baby for sex. We also experience the wrath of Clémentine’s parents, who claim that she’s too young and that it’s dangerous for her to give birth. Whereas her mother weeps with despair, her father is angry.

As well as the hurdles which the main characters face, we’re also brought down to the harsh reality with the shots of minor characters sitting in their room, alone and worrisome. Here, we can only guess the thoughts which run through their minds: The severity of the situation or how they will tell their parents.

The characters of the 17 are instantly recognisable from our own school days. From the natural leader, the headstrong Camille, to the wannabe Florence who’ll do anything to be involved in the ‘cool’ group, we recognise our own friends and ourselves from the 17. We become attached to them, we understand their motives- whether it be out of loyalty or just to be part of something that’s going on.

Florence asks Camille for advice

Florence asks Camille for advice

The film, for me, is not about rebellion. Instead, 17 Filles depicts the lengths that girls will go to in order to help their friends, with severe consequences. The desire to prove themselves to others, to grow up quickly, to show how mature they are. For example, they pore over a book about pregnancy, whilst each of the inner circle offer something that they know already about pregnancy.

We watch as outsiders, swept up in their dreams of happy lives together, bringing up the children but shaking our heads in disbelief at the blasé attitude they adopt towards motherhood.

It could be argued that 17 Filles loses some of its realism due to the fact that the girls party a lot, drink and continue to smoke. However, it could also be argued that this adds to the realistic situation: the 17 either don’t understand the severity of looming motherhood or refuse to acknowledge it.

The film, however, lacks in certain areas. Although there are 3, possibly 4 strong main characters, I’d have preferred to see more of the other girls. I’d have liked for some other girls to have speaking parts, instead of staying silent and I’d also like to know how Clémentine’s relationship with her family works out.

Although 17 Filles is often compared to both Juno and Knocked Up, it’s necessary to remember that both Juno and Knocked Up are unplanned pregnancies. The 17 (apart from perhaps Camille – but we’ll never know for sure) decide to get pregnant. Because of this, it could be argued that 17 Filles is refreshing and oddly more realistic than both Juno and Knocked Up.

7/10

Vocabulary: 

Dingue – Crazy, wild

J’en ai marre de – I am sick of

L’écographie (f) – the ultrasound

La couette – quilt, duvet

C’est le dernier de tes soucis – that’s the least of your worries

 

 

 

 

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