Melody: Behind closed doors with two mothers
by Guilhem Caillard
- Bernard Bellefroid once again explores family intimacy with the issue of surrogacy. Lucie Debay and Rachael Blake excel
Second fiction feature by Belgian Bernard Bellefroid after The Boat Race [+see also:
interview: Bernard Bellefroid, directo…
film profile] (Audience Award at the Namur Francophone Film Festival in 2009), Melody [+see also:
interview: Bernard Bellefroid
film profile] was honoured in the Angoulême Francophone Film Festival competition and gave Lucie Debay and Rachael Blake the opportunity to share the Best Actress Award in Montreal. Produced by Patrick Quinet, Claude Waringo and Serge Zeitoun, the film follows the footsteps of a young woman grappling with a precarious financial situation that forces her to put off her plan to open a hair salon. Relying on a loyal and loving clientele, Melody cuts hair at home and collects her meagre savings in a plastic pocket. In order to realise her dream, she needs more money. The young woman, a tormented soul with a troubled gaze, thus decides to become a surrogate mother. She meets Emily (Rachael Blake), a rich English woman who became infertile following an operation.
, a strong woman who’s honest and abiding, both harsh and determined, Emily arranges everything. Melody will carry her daughter. Everything is planned, from IVF to the birth in Ukraine, and the young surrogate mother moves in with her in Great Britain. After the first half hour of film, Bellefroid elegantly outlines the contours of a sort of private encounter, during which the two women will have to bond. Forgetting the old stairwells where Melody, homeless, spent her nights, the film soon plunges into an entirely different setting: a large villa with an unobstructed view of the Atlantic Ocean. Melody displays her doubts and uncertainty. After the birth, will she be able to simply separate from the child that she’s carrying?
As the young woman’s malaise takes root, the director unveils the background of her "sponsor", Emily. Bellefroid reveals her deep wounds. Much older, the weaknesses that she hides under a seeming coldness are one by one brought to the viewer with great respect for her character and with tact worthy of the best novelists. And then there’s Rachael Blake’s performance: impeccable and just: her facial features gradually learn to relax as she begins to see Melody as a true ally, a confidante, and not just a surrogate mother. The portrayal of this mature woman’s feelings, that are never forced and at times barely decipherable, is tackled with such care that it becomes one of the movie’s main attractions.
A number of themes are daringly tackled, such as gratitude, absence, loneliness, communication. Bernard Bellefroid talks about what it means to be a surrogate mother, in a manner that’s seldom seen in film. Rather than looking at the broad spectrum, he chooses to focus solely on his characters and makes Melody a very intimate work, a sensitive drama from which we won’t emerge unscathed.
(Translated from French)