Lily Sometimes, a hymn to joy
by Bénédicte Prot
After a series of often dark-themed films, the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight has chosen for its closing this evening a film which is colourful, bucolic and sunny right from the start: Lily Sometimes [+see also:
film profile]. Fabienne Berthaud’s second feature, adapted by the director (with Pascal Arnold) from her eponymous novel, tells the story of city-dwelling lawyer and big sister Clara (a very fresh performance by Diane Kruger, who also starred in Berthaud’s debut film, Frankie), who has to look after her whimsical country-dwelling little sister Lily (played by a Ludivine Sagnier who has rarely shown her maturity as an actress with such vitality) after the sudden death of their mother.
Lily is a bit "crazy" – at the very least she has a fertile mind and disconcerting child-like spontaneity that people around her see as hopeless unpredictability. What with her pet turkey, her odd habit of putting dead rodents in the freezer to make strange fur objects and her tendency to blurt out uncomfortable truths (which make the audience laugh a lot and don’t fail, with their liberating effect, to amuse some of the characters), Lily is not equipped for living in our society (in the city, she lacks water and air), which makes her vulnerable in the eyes of others. She certainly gives Clara a fright – in particular when she runs away or generously and without inhibitions (like everything she does) offers a group leg-over session to three local boys – and seems indeed to be a burden.
The first part of the film underscores the separation between the two sisters’ worlds. There is Lily on one side, Clara and everybody else on the other – moreover, Lily explains this humorously by recalling their late parents’ conviction that to succeed, you have to study law or medicine: "Clara did law and I did medicine, but on the patient side!" However, we gradually realise that the big sister, although well-adapted to the frameworks imposed by society, is not as happy as she appears. Lily’s vitality is perhaps a form of wisdom. In any case, we let ourselves be persuaded.
Life is so sweet when the two sisters are together and laugh whilst frolicking in the water like two blonde pastoral fairies. When three nomadic travellers suddenly show up in their van full of knick-knacks, with their haphazard life that is as simple and serene as Lily’s, we no longer get the impression she’s mad at all. Moreover, there is a kind of order in the young woman’s fancifulness, in the way she scatters the world with dazzling colours (making her mother’s grave a hymn to joy, to the great displeasure of the local priest, and the forest an enchanted place) whilst embracing its harmony. Full of splendid settings and costumes, Lily Sometimes is a feast which, just like the one cobbled together by the three travellers for the two sisters, has that perfect look everyone dreamed of at the time of hippie communes. Perhaps they had the right idea after all.
(Translated from French)
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