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Her Way, 2021.

Directed by Cécile Ducrocq.
Starring Laure Calamy, Nissim Renard, Romain Brau, Sam Louwyk, and Beatrice Facquer.

SYNOPSIS:

Marie, a strong willed, independent prostitute decides to enrol her rebellious son at a prestigious cooking school. A task that turns out to be much more challenging than she previously envisioned.

French filmmaker Cécile Ducrocq is certainly off to a sensational start with her cracker of a debut Her Way. The film, which went on to nab a Best Actress nomination at the 2022 Cesar Awards for its lead actress Laure Calamy, has since been garnering rave reviews across the board in recognition of its captivating performances and heartfelt narrative.

Ducrocq, who co-wrote the story with Stéphane Demoustier, keeps things simple and straightforward plot-wise opting to make this a more performance driven affair, which was a wise move on her part because this gives the required breathing space for Calamy to deliver a more visceral and emotionally resonating performance. And goddamn does she deliver. This is her movie, hands down and she simply owns it.

A single mother raising an emotionally volatile teenage child is challenging enough, but when you add a line of work like prostitution into the mix, things tend to get even more complicated. It’s clear from the get go that Marie’s son Adrien (Nissim Renard), resents his mother’s occupation and his temper tantrums are simply his way of communicating how much he dislikes it. He smokes pot all day, sleeps till late and has no interest in finding a job to support his mother.

Marie wants a better future for Adrien, and enrols the sullen teenager at one of the best cooking schools in France. But the school’s exclusivity and prestige come with a hefty price tag, and this becomes a major stumbling block for our headstrong single mother. Nevertheless, Marie slogs it out, burning the candle at both ends in order to make ends meet.

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The powerful performance dished out by Calamy captures all the emotional highs and lows of her character in believable fashion, as she navigates the various obstacles and dodges the curveballs that get thrown her way. It is a nuanced, multi-layered act and the talented actress more than deserves all the accolades that have come her way.

Nissim Renard is the Yang to Calamy’s Ying, carving out a realistic portrayal of a troubled young man drifting aimlessly through existence. You initially hate him at first due to his emotional outbursts and dogged disposition but by the time credits roll he is a changed man imbued with a sense of purpose and commitment.

Of the supporting cast Romain Brau also stood out as the transgender lawyer tasked with reluctantly guiding the stubborn Adrien at Marie’s request. And her advise makes a world of difference during the school application process.

Kudos to Cécile Ducrocq for coaxing such exquisite performances by the lead and the film’s supporting cast. No one stumbles or misses their step, and that is quite a feat to achieve in a debut film. I’m expecting great things from Ducrocq in the coming years. DOP Noé Bach also adroitly captures the beautiful dichotomy of the kaleidoscopic French nightlife and the sun kissed daytime. The interior shots are also equally stunning to behold; from plush neon-washed clubs to dull suburban monotony.

Laure Calamy is a tour-de-force in this unfeigned, bittersweet French drama. The raw sincerity of her phenomenal performance transforms a simple yet formulaic premise into something special, and that itself is worth the price of admission alone.

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Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★

Hasitha Fernando is a part-time medical practitioner and full-time cinephile. Follow him on Twitter via @DoctorCinephile for regular updates on the world of entertainment.

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