Monday, February 11, 2013


A rather nice, if cosy, trip back to 1970s’ Paris: Stella is eleven years old and starting a new term at a new, posh school. How she got there we do not know – her parents run a café and boarding house for welfare cases and cheerful lowlifes – and she is out of her depth socially and academically: she has no friends and no interest in or understanding of her schoolwork, though she can beat the café patrons at cards and knows all about football. Gradually, however, friendship grows with a round little redhead, Gladys, top of the class, and Stella finds she enjoys reading, devours Balzac, and is rather touchingly moved by Duras.

Her struggles are muted (even if a final one is rather serious) and the most pressing obstacle to overcome is passing the school year so as not to repeat. But Stella floats through it all with a dreamy air, and the downplayed drama matches her mien; her voiceover, observations and occasional daydreams are deftly handled and often rather amusing, and the flowering of a first crush is neatly conveyed in a single shot as she walks behind the object of her affection.

The film is basically autobiographical, written and directed by Sylvie Verheyde (and nicely scored by Nousdeuxlabande along with some great late 70s French pop), and whilst it does not amount to a great deal, it wins on the skill and restraint of the direction, and a charmingly unostentatious central performance from Léora Barbara, onscreen for almost the entire running time and effortlessly carrying the film (it also features, in a disappointingly small role, one of the final performances from Guillaume Depardieu who was shaping up to be a greater actor than his father before his premature but perhaps inevitable demise).

d/sc Sylvie Verheyde p Bruno Berthemy ph Nicolas Gaurin ed Christel Dewynter cast Léora Barbara, Mélissa Rodriguès, Laëtitia Guerard, Karole Rocher, Benjamin Biolay, Guillaume Depardieu
(2008, Fr, 103m)
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