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IFFR 2020 Voices Limelight

Review: Working Girls


- Anne Paulicévich and Frédéric Fonteyne present a choral portrait of three everyday heroines leading double lives in order to make ends meet

Review: Working Girls
Annabelle Lengronne, Sara Forestier in Noémie Lvovsky in Working Girls

It’s within the Voices - Limelight section of the IFFR that we find Working Girls [+see also:
interview: Anne Paulicevich and Frédér…
film profile
, the fifth feature film by Frédéric Fonteyne, written and devised by Anne Paulicevich who is also heading up artistic direction. The film explores the pact uniting three women who are opposed in every way, but who are brought together by fate and their profession. Mothers or girlfriends at an impasse in civil life, they secretly sell themselves in order to earn a dignified wage.

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Working Girls opens with a classic film scene, harbouring something of a twist. Beneath the pouring rain, three women bury a body; the body of a man. Axelle, Dominique and Conso are united by death but they also defy screenwriting conventions. Every morning these three ordinary women meet in a housing estate car park before travelling to work on the other side of the border, a border that’s as physical as it is symbolic. Once this frontier is passed, they transform themselves, becoming Athéna, Circé and Héra before the eyes of the clients who frequent the brothel in which they work.

Anne Paulicevich and Fréderic Fonteyne invite us to follow these women in the daily battle they lead to maintain their dignity and to face up to the vagaries of life which drove them towards the lifeline of prostitution.

But Working Girls isn’t a film about prostitution, it’s about life; the daily lives of these everyday heroines who, much like cats, circumvent dead ends and have more than one life.

Shored up in photography by the young cinematographer Juliette Van Dormael, the authors capture the truth of this trio’s life, which is full of drama, euphoria, time spent together, hysterical laughter, conflicts, life in its most organic form. It follows their day-to-day at home, as well as in the brothel; time spent waiting and moments of complicity. As we attach ourselves, in turn, to each of these girls’ viewpoints, we understand their flaws and their force, the power which drives them and allows them to overcome the impossible. The focus, here, is showing them in all their dignity, a hard-won dignity which they must endlessly lay claim to, again and again.

Despite the many dramas, humour - an ever-present factor in their lives - is a crucial valve which helps to ease the pressure. Much joy is felt by these aptly named filles de joie (‘girls of joy’, aka ‘working girls’); joy in spite of the tears, the wounds; joy, even if, at heart, the film is once again not so much a film about prostitution, as it is about the violence - physical and social violence - carried out against women.

Great actresses were required to play the parts of these heroines, and Anne Paulicevich and Frédéric Fonteyne have found them in Sara Forestier, Noémie Lvovsky and Annabelle Lengronne. The latter excel at lending life and complexity to these multi-faceted characters; characters imagined and committed to paper by the screenwriter.

Working Girls is produced by Jacques-Henri Bronckart on behalf of Versus Production, and is co-produced by Les Films du Poisson (France) and Prime Time (Belgium). International sales are managed by Brussels firm Be For Films, with the picture set for release in Belgium on 12 February (distribution: O’Brother) and in France on 18 March (distribution: KMBO).

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(Translated from French)

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