Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Breathe (orig. Respire) [2014]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
Allocine.fr listing*

Elle.fr (A. Ditakine) review*
Femme Actuelle (C. Bernheim) review*
LaCroix.fr (M. Soyeux) review*
LeMonde.fr (F. Nouchi) review*
Libération (G. Renault) review*

APUM.com (C. Mosequi) review*
aVoir-aLire.fr (G. Crespo) review*
Camera Obscura (T. Grégoire) review*
Sound On Sight (G. Cwik) review

Breathe (orig. Respire) [2014] [IMDb] [AC.fr]* (directed and screenplay cowritten by Mélanie Laurent [IMDb] [AC.fr]*, along with Julien Lambroschini [IMDb] [AC.fr]* based on the French lang. orig. (available in Eng. trans.) YA novel [GR-Eng] [GR-Fr]*[WCat-Eng] [WCat-Fr]*[Amzn-Eng] [Amzn-Fr-US]*[Amzn-Fr]* by Anne-Sophie Brasme [GR] [fr.wikip]* [Amzn-Eng] [Amzn.fr]*[IMDb] [AC.fr]*).  The film played recently at the 2015 Chicago French Film Festival (July 31 - Aug 6, 2015) held at the Music Box Theater here in Chicago.

While the story does turn into a late-teenage psychological thriller (quite interesting/compelling in its own right, worthy perhaps of Stephen King [wikip] [GR] [IMDb] without ever resorting to King's supernatural flourishes) the _biggest take-away_ for American viewers, particularly of late-teen / early 20-something age, could simply be the glimpse that it offers into the lives of quite average _French_ teenagers (as opposed to American ones).  And things are both "the same" and "different" for therm.

The story centers on 17 going-on 18 year-old Charlie (Charléne) (played by Joséphine Japy [IMDb] [AC.fr]*) a thoroughly average French teenager from some random suburban-like subdivision at the edge of some random provincial town presumably somewhere in the south (warmer part) of France.
Of a generally unassuming disposition, she does reasonably well in school (it's basically her "senior year").  While never "the life of the party," she begins the story with no enemies and one definite BFF, Victoire (played by Roxane Duran [IMDb] [AC.fr]*), who lives "down the street" and who know each other basically forever.  At home, well, there are some problems.  Her parents (played by Isabelle Carré [IMDb] [AC.fr]* and Radivoje Bukvic [IMDb] [AC.fr]* respectively) fight / break-up, then make-up, then fight again ... and this has gone on for the whole of Charlie's life without much resolution.  Apparently, they were quite young when they had Charlie and never married (or were married though somewhat "unconvincingly" / "under the gun", then got divorced, then tried to get back together again, then broke-up again, then ... the Reader should get the picture ...).  So there's _nothing_ particularly "special" about Charlie.  Basically, she's a thoroughly average French teenager, _not_ "from the boonies" but basically "from the Provinces."

Into her quite unassuming / unspectacular world then enters Sarah (played by Lou de Laâge [IMDb] [AC.fr]*) also in her last year in high school.  She introduces herself to Charlie and her school friends as having recently returned to France from Africa, her parents having (also) split up, and her mother still working for some NGO.  Since her ma' was still out there in Nigeria or someplace, Sarah tells them that she's living with her aunt.  Wow.  Hers had to be the most exciting/dramatic story to be heard in this quite "boring" town (or suburban section of town) in a long, long time, and she exudes a "worldly-ish" confidence that, again, is not exactly common in "small town" / "provincial" France.

Somewhat randomly, Sarah latches on to Charlie.  Moving people around to accommodate the new student, a random teacher in a random class places Sarah next to Charlie and from there they kind of hit it off.  Well, Sarah's talkative, full of stories of various adventures of various kinds (again, they're late-teenagers about to "turn legal" / "become adults" in all sorts of ways), and Charlie's, well, nice.

Perhaps the first sign of trouble was that Sarah, again a transplant with no knowledge of the friendships and social hierarchies in the school, makes short shrift of Charlie's life-long BFF Victoire.  She, of course, didn't know Victoire at all, and she needed a friend like Charlie.  So Sarah just insinuated herself quite forcefully between Victoire and Charlie.  And since Victoire (or Charlie for that matter) had _no_ experience with anybody like Sarah, soon ... yes "eye-rolling" but dazed (as in "what did just happen?" dazed...) Sarah made herself Charlie's best friend, and Victoire was ... out.

While Charlie didn't necessarily understand "what just happened with Victoire" -- no Victoire wasn't killed or anything, just "Sorry Victoire we don't time.  Oh, I  (Sarah) forgot to call you.  Dear God, can't you (Victoire) take a hint, Charlie doesn't like you anymore" socially removed from the picture -- Charlie's attention is definitely raised when, on "late autumn break" (around "All Saint's Day" that is Nov 1st, or around Halloween in the United States) Sarah basically steals a guy that Charlie had been previously kinda interested in.  What's going on?  What kind of a "friend" is this Sarah?

Well, not completely a doormat, Charlie does some investigating of her own, and discovers that Sarah does have a secret that could explain some of her odd / socially aggressive behavior.  But when Charlie tries to talk to / confront Sarah with her discovery and even trying to say "it's okay (but start now to behave with respect like the rest of us ...)," Sarah instead responds with basically "total (social) war."   And truth be told, while the two had been sort-of friends, Charlie had perhaps shared more with Sarah than she probably should have.
So ... the second half of the film goes quite dark.  The genius of the story is that it never steps a la Stephen King's Carrie into the realm of out-right unbelievable / crazy.   Instead, the story that plays out feels all too possible.

An excellent Y/A film!

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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