Suzanne : The sacrifices of passion
by Fabien Lemercier
- Katell Quillevéré proposes a very successful romanesque film on the chaotic destiny of a young woman who abandons everything for a risky love affair.
In addressing with Suzanne [+see also:
interview: Katell Quillévéré
film profile], which opened the Critics' Week at the 66th Cannes Film Festival, the path followed by a character over a 30-year period, Katell Quillevéré, already noticed on the Croisette in 2010 with her first feature Love like Poison [+see also:
film profile], has set the bar pretty high. A risk accepted and crowned success with a romanesque film, sensitive and moving, borne along by an excellent Sara Forestier in the role of a young woman who tries to take short-cuts and inevitably pays the price.
From this shred of fate over which there wafts a hint of bad luck, the director culls a very clear and affectionate portrait of a family of modest means in the depths of France, that of truck-drivers, working women and waitresses, barbecues in shabby courtyards, children placed in foster families, bars and clubs in which people try to escape, and small-time dealers. This world of solitude where family ties serve as lifelines is conveyed by Katell Quillevéré with a healthy energy, an excellent screenplay (co-written by Mariette Désert) skilfully addressing the time factor, and intelligent staging (without any ostentation), effectively swinging from the intimate to a vaster perception of the outer world.
It all starts with the innocence and laughter of childhood for Suzanne (Sara Forestier) and her sister Maria (Adèle Haenel), lovingly raised by their protective father (François Damiens) in a working-class suburb in the South of France. The absence of their mother, who has passed away, does not seem to weigh on the two little girls who soon become "grunge" and rather forward teenagers. The film is set in the 1990's and the first stroke of fate is about to fall: school-girl Suzanne gets pregnant and gives birth to a boy, Charly, whom she raises alone in the family home. Maria leaves to work in Marseille, though the very strong bond of affection between the two sisters lasts until Suzanne falls madly in love with Julien, a young lout (Paul Hamy) trying to wheel and deal at the race-course. Borne along by passion, Suzanne follows him and disappears, abandoning her young son who is taken care of by the grandfather. A few years later, the young woman finds herself in prison after committing a burglary with a break-in and violence. Julien is on the run, and Suzanne, devasted by loneliness and guilt, discovers that her son has been placed with a foster family. She pays him a visit when she gets out and tries to make her life over after getting back togther with her sister and father. But the smart Julien, who has risen in the ranks of the criminal world, turns up by chance. The couple get back together against a backcloth of drug trafficking with Morocco, which doesn't prevent Suzanne from giving birth to a daughter. Once again far from her family, the young woman pursues her chaotic destiny, but unpleasant surprises are still lurking in her path…
Going one better as compared to her first feature film, Katell Quillevéré (born in 1980, just like Suzanne) has several strings to her bow as a filmmaker. Overcoming with great ease the difficulties inherent to the plot and wide time-span, she succeeds in giving her characters real consistency, even for the most secondary roles (Corinne Masiero, Anne Le Ny), with the overall quality of the acting also worthy of praise. Anchored in social realsim which is perfectly recreated and using music very effectively (composed by Verity Susman from the English band Electrelane), Suzanne deploys a rather irresistible charm in the touching wake of a young woman on a desperate quest for love and freedom.
(Translated from French)