"The kind of film the French have always thrived at making."
There is no dream life and there are no angels in this movie. But the title is validated by the fact that it is a French movie and that the best answer for the significance of the title is that the French have their reasons.But more importantly this psychological drama is the kind of film the French have always thrived at making. In particular it seems a throwback to the raw, energetic films of the French New Wave period in the early Sixties. Especially since, like those films, it starts with a simple premise -- two women become friends and then their relationship slowly unravels -- but then progresses into a more complex social drama.
Isa (short for Isabelle and played by France’s bright new star Elodie Bouchez) and Marie (Natacha Regnier) meet while working at a low wage seamstress job. Isa is traveling through the area and needs a place to live. Marie befriends Isa and invites her to stay at the apartment she is house-sitting.
The most notable aspect of their friendship is that they have opposite personalities, which eventually forms a rift in their bond. Isa is the happy-go-lucky one who has a carefree spirit, a big smile and lots of charm. Marie is the unhappy-go-unlucky one full of rebellion, contempt and hostility.
Problems begin, of course, when men enter their lives and essentially rupture their female fraternity. Marie desperately gets involved with a smug rich club owner (Gregoire Colin). While Isa after dating a biker chooses to stay out of sexual encounters. But other issues come up as well when Isa learns that the apartment they are staying in belongs to a mother and young daughter who have been in a terrible car accident which has left the child at the hospital in a coma. So while Marie goes off the deep end in a dead-end relationship Isa begins to visit the comatose girl in the hospital with the hope of awakening her. What Isa doesn’t realize is that Marie desperately needs help herself awakening from the fantasy of her desperate relationship.
One of the movies greatest characteristics is its atmosphere. It exudes such an element of realism that it has a documentary quality. This can be credited to the impressive work of first time director Erick Zonca and gifted veteran cinematographer Agnes Godard. The unpretentious camera work employs numerous close-ups, natural light set-ups and cinema verite techniques bringing a genuine organic feel to the film. It's shot in a grainy film stock which can make you cough when cigarette smoke wafts through the air but which also adds a convincing dirt under the fingernails realism to the performances.The women embody the characters so well with their unkempt hair and messy clothing that it’s hard to believe they are acting. And for the strength of their naturalistic unadorned performances the two leads both shared best actress awards at Cannes and at the European Film Awards. ---Matt Langdon - iF Magazine (http://ifmagazine.ifctv.com)