If you love a good French flick, head to the cinemas to see this film. The latest from director François Ozon, it delves into issues often overlooked and unexplored by the mainstream film industry. Like many French films, the emotions and topics are raw, in particular sexuality and coming-of-age.
Isabelle is a 17 year old who, deflated after her losing her virginity to a young German lad whilst on vacation, becomes a call-girl, turning tricks to a variety of men. She becomes particularly attached to one customer, an older, married man who longs for her affection rather than simply exuding dominance or demanding favours. Throughout the movie, we follow her relationship with this older man while trying to decipher her thoughts and feelings towards prostitution.
Isabelle seems rather emotionless and non-chalant about her newfound occupation, initially seeming shy and hesitant but continuing nonetheless to earn a decent income. Lying about her age and to her family and friends, you might think this is a way to gain retribution for her first sexual experience in which she appeared to feel used and merely as a prop.
She lives with her mother and stepfather, her parents having split up some time ago. Issues such as father abandonment and rebellion rear its head, but of course Isabelle denies such things when questioned by her therapist. Once her mother discovers her secret escapades, we follow the brittle relationship between mother and daughter. Her mother is at a loss as to why her daughter has chosen such a path, citing Isabelle has never gone without. At 3 points within the movie, I felt it could have finished then and there, with 3 very different endings, each of which could have been very viable in rounding up the complex issues which abound in this movie.
There is an overwhelming melancholy flowing through this movie - Isabelle's lack of emotion, whether it be happiness or grief - and she seems to be somewhat of an old soul, aware of the sadness adult life can bring. Although, there are moments that make you giggle, such as the way her younger brother follows her around, sometimes with binoculars whilst she is sunbathing topless, and often he enquires about his own sexual wonders with his sister.
I found the ending to be much of a revelation as it was unexpected, and you can feel that the movie is flitting between moving in different directions, often being confusing. However, it is a thoroughly enjoyable movie, in parts shameless and unapologetically raw.