Orphaned as a child, Marine (Denarnaud) was adopted by Millie (Celarie) and raised alongside adoptive sister Lisa (Laurent), who's now a single mum to Leo (Maquet-Foucher). And their life is pretty much like any family's, with deep-seated love submerged under layers of family history, tiny grudges and personality issues. So Lisa struggles to get excited about Marine's charming new boyfriend Alex (Menochet). Then their lives take a dark twist, and each person has to stop and think about what they really mean to each other.
Laurent assembles this as a slice-of-life, quietly letting the plot develop in the background while focussing on the emotional interaction between the characters. Each of these five people emerges as a complex individual quietly trying to understand how they fit together. And each of them is as feisty and rude as they are thoughtful and caring. In other words, the roles are a gift for any actor, and Laurent directs her cast to performances that are raw and open, letting us into the souls of the characters in startlingly intimate ways.
The film's relaxed, gentle approach is constantly fired up by sparky relationships that are funny, wrenching, sexy and tender. The dialog makes constant references to past events, as families do, without explaining these things to us. But this gives us a remarkably vivid sense of their history together, including tight loyalties and tiny grudges. So their relationships are cyclical, as they fight or pull away, then find new ways to get closer than ever.
It's also gorgeously shot and edited, cleverly using depth of focus to reveal details, while the music echoes the moods without ever manipulating them. As it progresses, the film becomes so internalised that we start to feel part of this family as well, so what happens is an almost overwhelming collision of heartbreak and hope. Like Sarah Polley's evocative first film Away From Her, this is a notable debut for a filmmaker who has rare sensitivity and skill.
Run time: 100 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 23rd November 2011
Distributed by: Studio Canal
Production compaines: Studio Canal, TF1 Films Production
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 4
IMDB: 6.6 / 10
Director: Melanie Laurent
Producer: Bruno Levy
Screenwriter: Chris Deslandes, Melanie Laurent, Morgan Perez
Starring: Mélanie Laurent as Lisa, Denis Ménochet as Alex, Marie Denarnaud as Marie, Clémentine Célarié as Millie, Audrey Lamy as Clémence, Theodore Maquet-Foucher as Léo, Morgan Perez as Philippe, Nicolas Medad as Sébastien