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Agnes Jaoui in Sophie Fillières’ Swan Song



French writer-director Sophie Fillières, who tragically died final yr from most cancers on the age of 58, was no stranger to depicting manic conditions on display.

Her style of selection was comedy, and in movies like Gentille (2005), Pardon My French (2009) and When Margaux Meets Margaux (2018), she used the prism of humor to painting ladies going by way of main private crises, whether or not involving their turbulent love lives or the excorcism of their very own interior demons. Fillières’ chatty, messy, offbeat films performed like darker Parisian takes on the movies of Woody Allen, and they’d encourage a technology of youthful feminine auteurs like Justine Triet, whose Oscar-winning Anatomy of a Fall Fillières performed a small function in.

This Lifetime of Mine

The Backside Line

Brutally sincere and sometimes hilarious.

Venue: Cannes Movie Competition (Administrators’ Fortnight)
Solid: Agnès Jaoui, Angelina Woreth, Édouard Suplice
Director, screenwriter: Sophie Fillières

1 hour 39 minutes

A significant private disaster is what guides the director’s remaining function, This Lifetime of Mine (Ma Vie Ma Gueule), which stars Agnès Jaoui as a author combatting her psychological sickness with loads of wit and a good quantity of gravitas. Jaoui’s character, who’s been given the absurd identify of Barberie Bichette (a type of pun in French), appears to be a surrogate for the filmmaker herself. She’s intelligent and artistic but additionally unstable, and the film painstakingly chronicles her psychological breakdown, hospitalization and attainable restoration in a extremely lifelike method, whereas touchdown a number of first rate jokes within the course of.

“I’m 55 and I still don’t know what my nature is,” Barberie explains to her shrink early on, in a movie that turns into each a journey of self-discovery and a descent into the quotidian hell of continual melancholy. Jaoui, whose spot-on efficiency appears to have been modeled on the late director herself, garners our affection from the opening scene, during which she tries to begin writing her new novel (entitled My Life My Ugly Face, which can be the movie’s French title) and may’t even decide on which font to make use of.

Fillières peppers the narrative with such telling gags as we watch Barberie step by step spiral into an abyss. She crosses paths at one level together with her snarky teenage daughter (Angélina Woreth), in a hilariously merciless scene set within the Luxembourg Gardens, and hangs out together with her useful son (Édouard Suplice) and nonchalant sister (Valérie Donzelli). However as a single girl of a sure age, Barberie principally spends time alone.

She appears to be caught in a deep fog of insanity and loneliness, and This Lifetime of Mine appears to be asking us if there’s any actual distinction, at instances, between the 2. Barberie does ultimately have an actual breakdown when she runs into a person (Laurent Capelluto) who might or might not be an outdated flame, prompting an extended keep in a psychiatric establishment the place she struggles with the workers and tries to reconnect together with her children.

By far the movie’s most touching sequence happens when the household of three lastly reunites on the clinic, revealing that for all of Barberie’s eccentricities — and she or he has loads of them — she’s additionally a loving mom who can have her coronary heart damaged like the remainder of us. Fillières depicts her psychological sickness with each compassion and complexity, exhibiting how Barberie retains striving and failing to reside like a “normal” individual. She additionally retains questioning, in her ideas, notes and writings, if regular even exists.  

After she will get launched, Barberie takes off for England to reconnect together with her roots — she used to spend summers there as a baby — and maybe to begin life anew, hopping from a picturesque seaside city to the rain-soaked northern highlands. The third act wavers an excessive amount of to actually work, and general, This Lifetime of Mine feels extra like an intimate and really private model of auto-fiction {that a} totally developed story, which suggests it is going to principally attraction to the director’s small however devoted French fanbase.

The film can be one thing of a French arthouse cinema who’s-who, with cameos by actor-director Donzelli, actor Emmanuel Salinger (who starred in Arnaud Desplechin’s early options) and singer-auteur-film star Philippe Katerine. All of them present up in what would sadly develop into Fillières’ swan tune, accompanying Jaoui in a pointy and shifting efficiency that by no means shies away from the insanity her character faces. Regardless of how darkish issues get, This Lifetime of Mine does handle to go away the viewer with a way of hope — not essentially that psychological sickness could be totally cured and even escaped, however that portraying it with this stage of honesty and hilarity is already a type of victory.  

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