- Rebecca Zlotowski
- Run Time
- 1 hour and 43 minutes
- Not Rated
VP Content Ratings
- Sex & Nudity
- Star Rating
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant, or rude. It does not insist on its own way…
French writer director Rebecca Zlotowski puts a different spin on this rom-com tale of a woman falling in love with a divorced man who is co-parenting a little daughter. There is no cute meeting, nor a love conquers all denouement after encountering countless barriers to happiness. Indeed, the conclusion is a good example of love as selflessly letting go.
Rachel Friedmann (Virginie Efira), in her early forties, has a satisfying career as a secondary school teacher who takes an active interest in certain of her students whom she believes needs help. Recently separated from her boyfriend of eight years, she meets car designer Ali (Roschdy Zem) at the guitar lesson class in which the two are enrolled. He is divorced yet on good terms with his former wife Alice (Chiara Mastroianni) for the sake of their young daughter Leila (Callie Ferreira-Gonvales). The parents take turns picking up the girl after her judo classes.
From sessions with her doctor* we learn that Rachel would like to become a mother. Both are well aware that at her age the time for this happening is short. Meanwhile Rachel slowly earns the little girl’s trust and love as she spends more time with her and Ali—though not without some initial resistance from the going-on five child, who asks why Rachel I always with them, and even stating her preference for mommy on another occasion. “Mommy is your girlfriend,” she insists. “I want her to go away.” This passes, with the girl accepting both women as important in her life. Although aware of their fragile relationship, Rachel says nothing when on a train a stranger admires the two and comments how alike they look. Ali begins entrusting Leila more and more to Rachel, and when she begins picking up the girl after judo, Alice is accepting of the arrangement.
However, the passion between Rachel and Ali listens, leaving her feelings for the girl the main reason for their staying together as lovers. And Ali’s love for Leila leads him to make a decision that will test Rachel’s love, lifting, or expanding, it beyond passion or self-interest. It helps that writer Zlotowski has given details of Rachel’s life apart from Ali. There is her sister Louana (Yamée Couture) and father (Michel Zlotowski). Just as Rachel unsuccessfully strives to become pregnant, Louana delivers a child. At school a younger colleague takes an interest in her, but she is more engaged with a recalcitrant student whom some on the faculty committee want to cut from next semester’s class. Rachel argues strongly that he be given another chance, persuading the others to agree. That intervention will lead to one of the most satisfying scenes in the film, affirming her own purpose and worth.
Probably the scene that will tug at your heart is when Rachel tells Leila that she will not be coming around anymore. Searching for the right words that a five-year-old can grasp, she explains she still loves her, but that things have changed. This giving up her role as a stepmom while also suffering the disappointment of not being able to become pregnant herself makes for a powerful movie experience. It is real, especially when compared to the super hero movie playing next door. It was following this scene that the now alone Rachel encounters the student for whom she had gone to bat and learns of her effect upon his life. A nice way to remind us all that a woman can have a full life even without becoming a mother.
*I was very intrigued that Rachel’s doctor is played by the great Frederick Wiseman, director of 49 documentaries exploring many aspects of American social institutions and personalities, and that he has played small roles in other French films.
This review will be in the July issue of VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.