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VENICE 2022 Competition

Review: Other People’s Children

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- VENICE 2022: With brilliantly subtle simplicity, Rebecca Zlotowski paints an incredible portrait of a woman in love, without children, beautifully acted by Virginie Efira

Review: Other People’s Children
Callie Ferreira-Goncalves and Virginie Efira in Other People’s Children

"You don’t owe anyone an explanation, it’s your story", "I’ve only got one life and it’s with you. What happens to you happens to me a little bit too". Entering into a ready-made circle is rarely an easy undertaking, especially when love and families are involved and even more so when the biological window for having children is rapidly narrowing. Finding one’s place, and a balance between emotion and reason, desire and disappearance, and harmony with oneself and respect for the space created for others… It’s this grey zone within a woman’s everyday emotions which reflects that of so many others that French filmmaker Rebecca Zlotowski has chosen to dissect and capture to perfection, in all its quietly poignant banality, in Other People’s Children [+see also:
trailer
interview: Rebecca Zlotowski
film profile
]
, which has been unveiled in competition at the 79th Venice Film Festival.

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Telling the entire story of a new love experienced by Rachel (a fantastic Virginie Efira), a teacher at a high school who is single and nearing forty, the film follows all the stages and complications (which don’t always seem particularly challenging but which nonetheless eat away at the couple deep down) involved in being a stepmother to a four-year-old child, in a perfect progression of sequences. But ahead of all this comes her romance with Ali (Roschdy Zem), their hands edging closer to one another’s as if they were teenagers, physical pleasure, dinners with friends… Then comes the time to get to know and win over little Leila (Callie Ferreira-Goncalves), followed by pick-ups from judo lessons (armed with all-important snacks), holidays together in Camargue, niggling fears, shared joy, and injury ("why is Rachel always here? – She’s my girlfriend – Mummy’s your girlfriend. I want her to go"). Because there’s another woman in the picture, Alice (Chiara Mastroianni) who’s Leïla’s mother, which Rachel can never be ("I’m starting to care for her. But you’ll always be her father and her mother"). She’s also being hurried by her gynaecologist (Frederik Wiseman) and running out of time: "if you want a child, now is the time. You have to think of months as years". And time is also a factor with Rachel’s own family: her father, her little sister who becomes pregnant, their mother who died three decades ago, prayers under a shawl with her family in the synagogue. They’re an ensemble of echoes interacting, inciting deep emotions (which we often try to contain) and cutting to the core.

"It’s not that I think women aren’t complete without children, but it’s a collective experience I’ll never be a part of". Through her brilliantly directed portrayal of Rachel (elegantly discreet, courtesy of iris shots and fade effects) which is full of expertly orchestrated echoes under the cloak of a seemingly “banal” story about life, Rebecca Zlotowski delivers a work of great maturity which clearly also pays affectionate tribute to all those women without children, as well as to female solidarity more generally ("we’re going to stop apologising in men’s place").

Other People’s Children is produced by Les Films Velvet in co-production with France 3 Cinéma. Sales are entrusted to Wild Bunch International.

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(Translated from French)


Photogallery 04/09/2022: Venice 2022 - Les enfants des autres

14 pictures available. Swipe left or right to see them all.

Michel Zlotowski, Virginie Efira, Roschdy Zem, Anne Berest, Rebecca Zlotowski
© 2022 Dario Caruso for Cineuropa - @studio.photo.dar, Dario Caruso

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