Saturday, May 12, 2018

2018 Cannes Marathon: Respire

(Played as Part of the International Critics’ Week at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival)

Based on the novel by Anne-Sophie Brasme, Respire (Breathe) is the story of a 17-year old girl who begins a friendship with a transfer student that eventually spiral into chaos as the young girl also copes with her parents growing separation. Directed by Melanie Laurent and screenplay by Laurent and Julie Lambroschini, the film is a coming-of-age story that play into two teenage girls who become friends only for things to go wrong. Starring Josephine Japy, Lou de Laage, Isabelle Carre, and Claire Keim. Respire is an entrancing and eerie film from Melanie Laurent.

The film follows a 17-year old girl whose family life is in shatters until she meets a new transfer student who is lively and wild as they become friends only for things to get troubling as time goes on. It’s a coming-of-age film of sorts that play into a young woman’s growing pains as she is dealing with her parents splitting up and being bored with life in the suburbs and in high school. Upon meeting this new student whom she would get close to, things eventually get complicated following a holiday trip before the end of the year as thing begin to change. The film’s screenplay by Melanie Laurent and Julie Lambroschini follows the world that Charlie (Josephine Japy) is dealing with as it relates to her parents as she would be loyal to her mother Vanessa (Isabelle Carre). Upon meeting the transfer student Sarah (Lou de Laage) who claims to arrive from Nigeria as her mother works with refugees for four years and has to stay due to a border dispute. Charlie is intrigued by Sarah for her free-spirited persona as well as living a life that feature so much in comparison to how ordinary Charlie’s life is.

Yet, there is something about Sarah that becomes more fascinating as the story develops where Charlie invites her to a holiday with her mother and her mother’s friend Laura (Claire Keim) as things become complicated. Notably in a moment where they meet a fellow camper as Charlie introduces Sarah to the man where she said a simple mistake. Upon returning to the suburbs, Charlie learns more about Sarah in secrecy as she tries to maintain their friendship but Sarah becomes cold and distant leading Charlie to do the same towards her other friends who become concerned. It all play into this friendship that is eventually one-sided as well as troubling with many becoming increasingly aware that something isn’t right about Sarah.

Laurent’s direction is simple yet low-key in her approach to compositions as well as setting it in an environment that is quaint but ordinary as it is shot on location in the town of Beziers in the South of France. While there are some wide shots in a few of Laurent’s compositions, much of Laurent’s direction involve her using close-ups and medium shots as it play into how Charlie and Sarah interact with one another as well as the sense of isolation from the former towards her parents and friends. There’s a looseness for the scenes at the camp where everything is a little disorganized but also freeing as it play into the world that Sarah wants and how it makes Charlie feel even lonelier. Even in the second half where Laurent would create moments that are intense with some unique tracking-crane shots as it relates to Charlie wanting to know about Sarah and her life. Notably in a New Year’s Eve party where Charlie arrives in costume unaware of the theme as it would add to this growing tension between her and Sarah as the former knows a lot about the latter but doesn’t want to cause trouble.

The film’s third act that relates to Charlie’s own sense of loneliness and Sarah’s own rise in her social status in high school despite the fact that the latter is really using a façade to hide what is really going on in her own home. While Charlie wants to help Sarah, the latter would agree to but not in public in order to be accepted as Laurent’s direction continues to showcase Charlie’s growing isolation by having her show in a single frame whether it’s in a wide shot or a close-up. All of which play to this climax that is shocking but it builds up into all of the drama these two girls deal with towards each other in this friendship that ends up becoming toxic. Overall, Laurent crafts an evocative yet chilling film about a 17-year old befriending a lively yet mysterious transfer student.

Cinematographer Arnaud Potier does excellent work with the film’s cinematography from the usage of natural colors for the scenes in the day to some stylish lighting for some of the scenes including the New Year’s Eve party scene at night. Editor Guerric Catala does terrific work with the editing as it is largely straightforward in terms of capturing the drama with some rhythmic cuts in parts of the film. Production designer Stanislas Reydellet, with set decorator Cecilia Blom and art director Arnaud Denis, does fantastic work with the look of the house that Charlie and her mother live as well as the camp site where Charlie takes Sarah too for a holiday. Costume designer Maira Ramedhan Levi does nice work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward with the flowy dresses and jean-shorts look that Sarah likes to wear to flaunt her sexuality.

Makeup artist Pascale Bouquiere and hairstylist Jimmy Springard do superb work with the look of the characters from the straight-haired look of Charlie to the wavier look of Sarah. Sound editor Alexis Place does brilliant work with the sound in capturing the sound of the beaches and parties that the characters go to as well as some of the film’s quieter moments. The film’s music by Marc Chouarain does wonderful work with the film’s music which is largely an ambient-based score that appears in a few scenes to play into Charlie’s sense of isolation while much of the music soundtrack is a mixture of pop, hip-hop, and electronic music that Charlie and her friends listen to.

The casting by Coralie Subert is remarkable as it feature some notable small roles from Radivoje Bukvic as Charlie’s father, Carole Franck as Sarah’s aunt, Fanny Sidney as a popular girl named Isa, Louka Meliava as a classmate that Charlie is fond of in Lucas, Roxane Duran as Charlie’s best friend Victoire who becomes concerned about Charlie, and Claire Keim as Vanessa’s friend Laura who helps her deal with Vanessa’s split from her husband. Isabelle Carre is brilliant as Charlie’s mother Vanessa who is dealing with not just divorce but also the need to be with someone as she would bond with Sarah unaware of what Sarah is doing to Charlie.

Lou de Laage is amazing as Sarah as a new student transferring from Nigeria who arrives as this young girl who is lively and vibrant but also mysterious in the stories she tells as it’s a charismatic and wild performance from de Laage. Finally, there’s Josephine Japy in an incredible performance as Charlie as this 17-year old girl who is dealing with uncertainty in her own life as a high school student until meeting Sarah would make her feel more lively only to retreat further into loneliness as it play into this sense of loss as well as not knowing how abusive Sarah really is towards her.

Respire is a sensational film from Melanie Laurent that features phenomenal performances from Josephine Japy and Lou de Laage. Along with its supporting cast, simplistic approach to storytelling, and themes of friendship that ends up being toxic and abusive. It’s a film that explores a young girl coming of age as she meets someone who she thought was cool but only to create more trouble. In the end, Respire is a rapturous film from Melanie Laurent.

Melanie Laurent Films: (The Adopted (2011 film)) – (Tomorrow (2015 film)) – (Plonger) – Galveston - (The Nightingale (2022 film)) - (The Mad Woman's Ball)

© thevoid99 2018

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