Laetitia Dosch gives a raw, powerful performance in this affecting drama about a young woman going through an extreme emotional crisis
Léonor Serraille is the 32-year-old first-time director from Lyon who won the Camera d’Or prize at last year’s Cannes and also a César for this attractive and sympathetically acted movie in a classic New Wave style. It is co-scripted by her and editor Clemence Carré, as well as screenwriter Bastien Daret.
Its star, Laetitia Dosch, is on screen for almost every minute. She gives a keenly emotional, raw, open performance as Paula, a young woman going through an extreme emotional crisis, having evidently broken up with her older boyfriend – a famous photographer whose intimate and erotic picture of Paula in the bath has become the much-exhibited talk of the town.
She has effectively become homeless in Paris, railing against the city’s indifference, and has had to go to hospital for a wound on her forehead sustained by a self-harming bout of futile rage. But Paula has also kidnapped her ex’s cat, as an unsubtle hostage to ensure he returns her calls. With faintly sociopathic cunning, she tricks a chance acquaintance into thinking that they knew each other at school, uses her contacts to get an agency job as a live-in babysitter, and also gets a shopgirl post where she forms a friendship with a sweet-natured security guard Ousmane (Souleymane Seye Ndiaye).
It’s like a film that Philippe Garrel might have made, although Paula isn’t a thousand miles from Agnès Varda’s Cléo. Serraille has some very nice quarterlife-crisis dialogue. On being told by a doctor that she is “young”, Paula says airily that she is “31 – which is nearly 40”; on then being reminded that she said she was 29, she shrugs and says that 31 “is the same thing”.