Quietly establishing her characters and their inter-relationships with very little dialog, filmmaker Denis uses her typically moody, vague style to explore multicultural France with dark humour and warm emotion.
Jo (Diop) lives with her widowed train-driver dad Lionel (Descas) in a Paris flat. Also in the building are Lionel's ex Gabrielle (Dogue) and Noe (Colin), a neighbour Jo has her eye on. Together, they're a sort of family, watching out for each other even as circumstances change around them. When a friend (Toussaint) retires, Lionel becomes terrified of his own old age, which opens him up to potential romance with a local cafe owner (Ado). And besides Noe, Jo is also drawn to a cute shop clerk (Folly).
The title refers to a tradition for dealing with momentous occasions. Everyone in the film is facing up to some sort of transition, although the salient point is that they're not facing it alone. Denis builds a remarkable sense of community between these people, and she does it in a poetic, understated way that's punctuated by moments of dark humour. As with most of her films, this kind of wispy approach leaves us feeling like we're watching a moving painting, unable to see what it's really about.
But what Denis does so remarkably is find the profound within the banal. Her superb cinematographer Agnes Godard lingers on the actors' faces, seeing deep beneath the skin as we follow them through everyday events that have specific meaning for each person. We can vividly identify with their private inner lives, and their interaction is bracingly authentic--touches, glances, kisses that say more than dialog could, especially with a cast this finely gifted.
But it's not a sober, mopey movie by any means. There's more real wit and romance than in any Hollywood rom-com. Sharp authenticity infuses the way both Jo and Lionel cope with the people who are in love with them, but more important is how father and daughter relate to each other. And while the film also touches somewhat heavily on big issues of racial inequality and colonial injustice, it's actually a deeply personal look at the strength of human connections.