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:: A Ma Soeur

Having received mixed reactions, and especially a hostile reception at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival, this film by French director Catherine Breillat has been eagerly anticipated. This is the story of sisters Elena (Roxane Mesquida) and Anais (Anais Reboux) who are on holiday with their parents. Elena is fifteen and is very attractive, whilst Anais is twelve and has an eating problem, thereby making herself less attractive for boys.

The girls meet an older Italian student Fernando (Libero De Rienzo). It doesn’t take long for him to fall for the beautiful Elena. Anais realises she can’t compete for the love of the opposite sex and withdraws into eating more and more. The girls could not be portrayed more differently. For Elena, it is now a matter of defloration and seduction.

The film is straight down the line in dealing openly with teenage sexuality. The director shows the complication and cruelty with being sisters of different attractions and ambitions. The focal point of the film becomes the part when Fernando seduces Elena, in her first real sexual moment. It occurs in the common bedroom of the girls, putting the sisters’ relationship to a test. These are pure emotions of real people and it emphasises Catherine Breillat’s blunt fashion in showing her “man + woman = sex” formula, as in her other film “Romance”.

It is easy to get caught up in the personalities of the two sisters, and through this thorough character study of what they mean to each other and what teenage life means. Naturally, Elena’s first sexual encounter with a smooth young Italian boy is the age-old fairytale fling. The ending to the film may dissatisfy some viewers – it’s dark reality hitting home in very well acted scenes. Generally, though, “A Ma Soeur” pushes some boundaries, amid some sexually explicit scenes and a disturbing plot switch.

The film is beautifully photographed and the scenery is used justifiably as a means of enhancing the quality. Anais Reboux and Roxane Mesquido put in terrific acting performances. In fact, Roxane’s alluring looks could well set her up for a fine career. Both girls capture the moments of adolescence wonderfully well. Above all, “A Ma Soeur” will provoke some thoughts and disturb others with the subject matter. As a study of teenage love and ambitions, the film sits worthily as one to strongly recommend.

Screening at the Lumiere Cinema and Cinema Como