Sunbeat: No more secrets
by Fabien Lemercier
- Clara and Laura Laperrousaz direct a promising and bittersweet debut feature film
When we talk about returning to our roots, we don't always know what awaits us in our past, nor what impact confronting it may have on the present. And even the staggering beauty of nature can’t change things for those who have lived through it. But that’s not the case for those who look at the wounds inflicted on adults through the naïve eyes of childhood. This is the vast conceptual territory with which Clara and Laura Laperrousaz choose to engage in their debut feature, Sunbeat [+see also:
interview: Laura and Clara Laperrousaz
film profile], through a simple cathartic and introductory family narrative, screened as part of the European Discoveries section of the 18th Arras Film Festival.
Birds chirp, cicadas sing, the sun is shining and the river extends its welcoming arms to a family of four on holiday in a break-taking landscape. Parents Iris (Ana Girardot) and Gabriel (Clément Roussier) and their six-year-old twins: Emma (Océane Le Caoussin) and Zoé (Margaux Le Caoussin) seem as if they couldn’t be happier. This is the first time the children have been to Portugal, the native country of their father, who also hasn’t taught them his mother tongue. But a photo found in the house by Emma will quickly force Iris to lift the veil on a dark secret: "That's Lila, our first daughter. She’s in heaven now. We came here before she had her accident. She drowned when she was two years old." A swimming pool accident filled with guilt for Iris ("I was taking a nap because I didn't feel very well") and strong feelings of resentment for Gabriel towards his brother-in-law, Miguel, who was supposed to be keeping watch over the girl. Obviously, this secret quickly passes from one twin to the other, and the two children develop a very personal vision of the event ("we mustn’t make mum and dad sad, we're not allowed to die"), taking innocent and dangerous initiatives that revive the trauma experienced by their parents, fuelling tensions between them.
One of Sunbeat’s strengths is the way in which the directors (who wrote the screenplay) succeed in bringing the four main characters to life by developing the story through two opposing opinions, two different perspectives of the same situation: that of the twins at the height of childhood and that of the parents, whose mourning process is far from over. The two universes observe each other, becoming autonomous to the situation, the story therefore offers multiple possibilities for narrative advancement, even if there may be some regret surrounding the tendency to overdramatise the home stretch of a promising film that owes a lot to the music composed by Gianni Caserotto, along with and Vasco Viana’s remarkable photography.
Sunbeat was produced by Alfama Films, which will be distributing the film in France on 13 December, as well as driving international sales.
(Translated from French)
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