Review: Our Wonderful Lives
by Fabien Lemercier
- Fabienne Godet explores the world of rehab in a fiction feature with great finesse, incontestable depth and striking intensity
"What did you used to take?” “Alcohol, anything that I could get my hands on, meds, neo-codion, ritalin, valium, coke, every day. I ache all over." It’s in an isolated country manor that the French director Fabienne Godet has chosen to set Our Wonderful Lives [+see also:
interview: Fabienne Godet
film profile] – an extremely powerful fiction film with a sober, delicate, sensitive and meticulous approach to rehab and the individual resolution of inner conflicts via community life, group therapy and the rebuilding of social ties in order free oneself from the chains of dependence and the burden of intimate wounds.
Screened at the 10th Les Arcs Film Festival in the Hauteurs section, the filmmaker's fourth feature after Burnt Out [+see also:
film profile] (San Sebastian in 2005), My Greatest Escape [+see also:
film profile] (the Berlinale in 2009 and nominated for a César Award in 2010 for Best Documentary) and A Place on Earth [+see also:
film profile] (2013) easily confirms her talent and is due to make its international premiere at the 43rd Rotterdam Film Festival (23 January to 3 February 2019) in the Voices programme.
Unlike other recent French titles dealing with the same subject (The Prayer [+see also:
interview: Cédric Kahn
film profile], The Party's Over [+see also:
interview: Marie Garel-Weiss
film profile]), Our Wonderful Lives takes the form of a choral film, never leaving the rehab centre and its surrounding environment. A collage of fifteen different addicts, assembled by Fabienne Godet, that never ever allows the narrative to take over – the camera calmly harmonising with the rhythm of the film’s setting and the protagonists' acute inner solitude, gently allowing the painful truths of their lives to emerge and a fragile and intense solidarity to be built.
A pivotal character nevertheless acts as a mirror in this group portrait, Margot (the exceptional Julie Moulier, whoalso wrotethe screenplay with the director) is a young thirty-something-year-old woman from a wealthy provincial family who got caught up in a drug addiction after moving to Paris to study ("I still wonder how I managed to stay alive"). Arriving for a ten-week treatment plan and initially resistant to the prospect of opening up during the group therapy sessions (led by two therapists) that punctuate daily life at the centre, Margot, like everyone else staying at the centre, gradually delves deep within herself to find the psychological source of her dependence, a violent and difficult awareness and a journey that is aided by relearning how to trust, sincerity, responsibility and feelings, under the permanent threat of the re-emergence of ghosts from her past.
Split into 15 sections, corresponding to days 2, 3, 7, 10, 13, 17, 19, 22, 24, 27, 30, 38, 42, 43 and 48 of Margot's stay, Our Wonderful Life is a remarkable film that gives space to unspeakable emotions, capturing facial inflections, the nuances of glances, unspoken words, confessions, the helplessness of personal suffering and the precious value of group dynamics, which bring together pain and joy. A moving composite portrait, which Fabienne Godet brilliantly succeeds in creating, without any pretention in the association of an almost documentary-style exploration with key fiction aspects, and without manipulating the viewer’s emotions, a combination that pays tribute to a filmmaker who remains infinitely respectful of her subject matter and very adept at creating a depth that is paradoxically as discreet as it is moving.
(Translated from French)
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