Solutions in stasis in Dupeyron’s searing anti-narrative With a Little Help from Myself

It’s tough to raise a family–especially when your husband is a deadbeat who spends the family pot on the horse race the day of his daughter’s wedding. It’s also tough to make a movie. To get the tone of a film right is maybe an even harder challenge. The constant tonal changes that saturate every sequence of With a Little Help from Myself, playing as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series, require the viewer to adjust quickly to the change of style and music. Is it a comedy, a dark comedy, a family drama, a social drama?

Shot like a documentary, this scripted faux narrative has definite ideas of what the lives of an African immigrant in a Paris housing project are like: full of storming efficient police officers, angry mobs of black and Arab kids, and thoughts of suicide on rooftops with motorcycles. To help convey this frenzied interpretation, the director uses a handheld camera, sometimes propped on the character himself.

The film is held up by worthy performances from the entire ensemble cast, most notably by Ms. Félicité Wouassi playing the mother Sonia, who penetrates every frame with a stern gaze matched with an effervescent longing. Like the movie, she is conflicted. Her solutions are odd for a heroine, and you don’t know whether to root for her or think she’s an idiot–my mother raised five kids and would never have been so forgiving of a drug bust or an unwanted pregnancy. There is a dichotomy between the stirring Cameroon actress’s vision and the French director’s. Perhaps, Dupeyron’s vision is better represented by the old white man, who uses Sonia’s black naked body to relieve himself of any pain before he and the film dies.

-Michael Masarof

Buy tickets to With a Little Help from Myself : Mon Mar 9: 1 & 6:15

Explore posts in the same categories: festival dispatches, French cinema, on @ the walter reade, what's on

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