Léonor Serraille / France / 2017 / 97 mins
At Edinburgh Filmhouse until Thu 31 May
This bristling Bildungsroman from debutant director Léonor Serraille is positively frenetic with livewire verve and élan. Telling the story of a recently-dumped 31-year-old who has never really had to grow up, Jeune Femme is the cinematic equivalent of having one espresso too many and Laetitia Dosch, in its central role, is the physical embodiment of that same nervous energy. Having spent the last decade in Mexico with her hugely successful (and much older) photographer boyfriend, Paula returns to her native Paris to face a few unpleasant home truths.
When we meet her, Paula is an incredibly fragile state. The pain of the break-up is just as fresh as the blood on her forehead (from where she gave her erstwhile lover’s door a parting Glasgow kiss), and as her friends and family dump her one by one, the wayward waif becomes increasingly desperate. But despite these trying circumstances, Paula shows incredible bounce-back-ability and no little sociopathic acumen to finagle a job as a babysitter and masquerade as the childhood friend of a complete stranger. All in a day’s work for our scatty heroine.
The tone of the piece is erratic as Paula’s mood; at times, we see glimpses of the same endearing immaturity as in Frances Ha; at others, the reality of Paula’s stagnation hits home with deflating gravitas. It’s a continual see-saw between the devil-may-care euphoria of inebriation and the cavernous despair of the comedown, with Paula’s apparently unshakeable self-belief the only constant. Rather than being a grating characteristic, however, it’s a positive one; through all the rejections and the regrets and the half-baked plans blowing up in her face, she soldiers on.
There’s something to be said for that sort of resilience, and there’s certainly something to be said for this emotive movie which highlights it. What exactly that message is, remains unclear, but one things for sure: Paula won’t be too fazed whichever way you view her uncoordinated and sometimes downright careless actions. Or rather, she will – but she’ll overcome. There’s probably a lesson in there for all of us.