Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Forget sex, swearing and violence – this film features gratuitous loneliness.

Suzanne is an ill-disciplined teenager, having grown-up always getting her own way. At 15, she's having sex with almost every guy she talks to, yet with each passionate liaison, her hopes of love grow fainter. Her family, having failed to teach her values earlier, compensate afterwards by physically punishing her.

Finding love in neither great sex, nor her warring family, it seems that only her gutted ex-boyfriend Luc has feelings for her that endure. Alas, her bruised emotions render her unable to risk exploring this with him, and he eventually falls for her best friend.

This is not a story-driven film. As soon as something starts to happen, Director Maurice Pialat cuts away to the next scene, casting aside events that might distract from the real-life characters we're watching. Indeed, he presents their everyday carelessness with shocking starkness, and dwells upon their individual pain with beautiful patience. On the big screen it's possible to really study these people's faces, and wonder just what on earth's going on in there.

The downside to this approach is that it subtracts from the viewer's understanding of the characters' motivations. For example, in one scene Suzanne is, apparently, engaged. Without having seen any evidence of this, the viewer is forced to suppose that she might just be lying.

Sandrine Bonnaire's performance as the self-serving Suzanne is simply faultless. Her descent from a happy, pure teenager into a numb, sassy bride-to-be all feels like such a galling waste.

If only, instead of seeing what she could get out of a relationship, she'd looked at what she could put in.


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