Jeune Femme review: The film that won the Camera d’Or prize at last year’s Cannes Festival, as well as a César award. It is not hard to see why.
Jeune Femme review by Andrew Gaudion.
Set against the backdrop of modern-day Paris, Jeune Femme constructs a witty and poignant chronicle of a young woman’s struggles to find some purpose following a break-up with her boyfriend, a photographer who catapulted to fame with an image he took of her. Jeune Femme won the Camera d’Or prize at last year’s Cannes Festival, as well as a César award, and it is not hard to see why. This is a sympathetically shot and well-played moment of a young women’s life, guided with care from first time director Léonor Serraille and its captivating star Laetitia Dosch.
Dosch as Paula is nothing short of revelatory. She has nowhere to hide as the camera is constantly trained on her throughout the proceedings, be it in intimate close-up or framing her against any number of Parisian buildings, public steps, and spaces. The closely considered framing and Dosch’s unique look make Paula an easy lead to care for. We’ve all experienced moments in our lives where we may feel rudderless and without a great deal of purpose, so it is very easy to empathise with Paula’s struggle as she aims to find work despite her lack of experience and credentials.
Effectively homeless and holding her ex’s cat almost for ransom, Paula glides through Paris with an almost carefree disposition, despite how desperate her situation always feels. She calls in favours, scorns old friends, makes new ones, attempts to re-build an estranged relationship with her mother, and often lies and exaggerates certain truths in order to find employment. But there’s never a sense that she sells herself out, she has a line that she won’t cross and sticks to her own set of principles throughout as she attempts to establish some stable grounding in her life. She’s endlessly engaging as both a character and in terms of performance, her personality reflected by the bizarre and plucky Jazz-esque score.
Jeune Femme does threaten to feel quite slight. There are a lot of relationships to explore in the film but the free-flowing nature of it never quite allows for an in-depth look at certain dynamics Paula forms. You could easily make the whole film about her relationship with the young girl she comes to babysit or make a film about her new found attraction to a shopping centre security guard, or even one focused entirely on the reconciliation with her mother. Instead we get vignettes of all these different relationships, and while it does allow for a more rounded depiction of Paula’s character, a lot of the other individuals in her life can feel a little thinly-sketched.
Jeune Femme can take wild turns in terms of tone. Many of the scenes can be read as quite tragic, and it’s very grounded and intimate aesthetic often feels like it’s setting you up for something tragic to occur. Yet, it also has some very funny even screwball moments of comedy that come to allow the film and Paula to feel that much more genuine. Life can be tough, life can be bleak, but even if a situation looks dire, you can always find something to laugh at. Jeune Femme is a confidant debut for both director and star with its syncopated approach to narrative gives it a very human spirit to this tale of a 30-something woman in a state of crisis, just hoping she can land on her feet.
Jeune Femme review by Andrew Gaudion, May 2018.
Jeune Femme is released in UK cinemas on Friday 18th May 2018.