Katell Quillévéré’s second feature, Suzanne, has opened Crtiics’ Week, and “it’s the sort of woozily shot, remorselessly emotional, acutely observed socio-realist soap that both confounds and confirms chick-flick prejudice,” finds the Guardian‘s Catherine Shoard. “Baldly recalled, it sounds like a telenovela: Suzanne and her elder sister, Maria, live with their widowed father in the Languedoc. We see them first in primary school, then as Suzanne (Sara Forestier) is about to leave secondary and announces she’s pregnant. Flash forward five years and Charlie is part of the family (his father is never seen or spoken of) and Suzanne works in the office of the trucking company that employs dad. Then she falls in love, with Nicolas (Paul Hamy) who feels the same, but he’s a small-time gangster, and when he must leave, Suzanne must choose between him and her family.”
“[R]ealistically staged but artificially structured,” finds Boyd van Hoeij, writing for Variety. “Though it’s just over 90 minutes long, the story charts 25 years in the life of not only the protag but also her dad, sister and criminal lover, with ellipses occurring so frequently that the pic almost feels like an extended trailer for an entire season of a French working-class daytime drama.”
In the Hollywood Reporter, Jordan Mintzer notes that Quillévéré’s “debut Love Like Poison premiered in the 2010 Directors’ Fortnight and went on to win France’s prestigious Louis Delluc prize.” Suzanne “doesn’t always prove effective, especially during a denouement that creeps towards genre territory without convincingly laying down the groundwork for it. But other moments, particularly in the movie’s lengthy mid-section, are both realistically handled and, at times, extremely moving, thanks in a large part to terrific turns from Forestier (The Names of Love), Adele Haenel (House of Tolerance) and [François] Damiens (Nothing to Declare)–in a rare non-comic role that proves the Belgian actor definitely has the chops for drama.”
You can sample the look and feel of Suzanne
in the second half of this report from Arte (in French, no subtitles),
which compares and contrasts the film with Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring.
At Cineuropa, Fabien Lemercier finds that Quillévéré “culls a very clear and affectionate portrait of a family of modest means in the depths of France, that of truck-drivers, working women and waitresses, barbecues in shabby courtyards, children placed in foster families, bars and clubs in which people try to escape, and small-time dealers. This world of solitude where family ties serve as lifelines is conveyed by Katell Quillévéré with a healthy energy, an excellent screenplay (co-written by Mariette Désert) skilfully addressing the time factor, and intelligent staging (without any ostentation), effectively swinging from the intimate to a vaster perception of the outer world.”
“There are rare moments of joy, reckless decisions, heartache and much more in a film that feels like flicking through a family album filled with births, deaths, wrong turns and piercing regrets,” writes Allan Hunter for Screen. “An atmospheric, haunting score by Verity Susman considerably enhances the changing moods of a film that in its finer moments can readily stand comparison with the films of the Dardenne brothers.”
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