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LFF 2019 Review: Une Fille Facile (An Easy Girl) – “You won’t find a better coming-of-age tale this year”

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Since making the brilliant but under-seen Planetarium in 2016, Rebecca Zlotowski seemed to be lying low. Instead, it’s now apparent that she was making Une Fille Facile (An Easy Girl), a coming-of-age comedy-drama with a specific point of view.

The first shots of Une Fille Facile introduce its sumptuous setting, as Zahia Dehar‘s honeyed torso swims into focus, a nut-brown spot in endless azure seas. This light introduction reflects the luxurious tourist-focussed side of the film’s location: Cannes, but of course, this is only part of the story. That same luxury does not magically exist, it’s provided by locals working behind the scenes. Fifteen-year-old Naïma (Mina Farid) is one such worker, the daughter of a maid at a high-end hotel. Naïma finishes school for the summer in a happily pedestrian teenage dream; when she’s not swimming with best friend Dodo (Lakdhar Dridi) or encouraging his desire to be an actor (or, as Dodo says – an actress), she’s wondering how to spend her 30 Euros birthday money and ignoring her mother’s requests to get a job.

Naïma narrates Une Fille Facile, reflecting on her own rite of passage. Dehar plays Naïma’s cousin Sofia; in her twenties and strikingly beautiful – if a little more enhanced than her namesake Loren – Sofia comes to stay at Naïma’s small apartment to teach her younger cousin about the idle pleasures of shopping and clubbing. Through a combination of mercurial planning and luck, Sofia and Naïma befriend playboy super-yacht owner Andres (Nuno Lopes) and his friend/fixer Philippe (Benoit Magimel). Naïma watches the kind and intellectual Sofia use looks and sexuality to every advantage, providing mixed signals when Naïma believed the only choices in life a girl gets concern work, not desire. She leans on Philippe, who is a good 20 years older, to help her navigate the group’s tangled relationship with youth, beauty and wealth. Naïma holds the adult world and Dodo at bay, choosing to experience the pleasure of Andres’s limitless resources while grappling with the group’s differing approaches to freedom.

It is reductive to call Une Fille Facile only a comedy. The film is layered, working more as a tender examination of Naïma’s sexual and adult awakening under Sofia’s influence. Zlotowski is in complete control of the material (which she co-wrote with Teddy Lussi-Modeste), manipulating the audience into making judgment calls, particularly about Sofia, who is a more complex figure than she initially presents. Sofia embodies a freedom from others’ judgement which strains the boundaries of modern society – with her translucent outfits and sexual eagerness. The camera loves Dehar, in a celebratory and not voyeuristic way, a clear result of the female gaze. In less experienced (read: heterosexual male) directors’ hands, this may have cheapened the character, but Zlotowski ensures that Sofia is completely in charge of her choices, and challenges the viewer to question how transactional their own interactions may be. Dehar hints at Sofia’s hidden fragility as a result of recent trauma, but the continued lack of judgement towards the character shown by the director and Naïma ensures that there is no easily explained-away ’cause’ of Sofia’s actions. It is clear that all of the characters are forced into living in narrow boxes which do not adequately define them.

The film continues to defy convention in its approach to Naïma. She isn’t stupid or lazy, but merely avoiding the responsibilities of adulthood thrust upon her early by circumstance. The relationship with Philippe is beautifully played by Farid and Magimel. Whereas Sofia and Andres’s relationship is all sweaty, surface and knowingly short-term, Philippe is a mysterious, confident older man who treats Naïma with respect. It is uplifting (and perhaps depressing in its rarity) to see an older man behave appropriately with a confused teenage girl.

From the double entendre in the film’s title, throughout the plot, Zlotowski invites discussion and confounds expectation in Une Fille Facile. This is a gorgeous, stimulating movie with a fulfilling arc. You won’t find a better coming-of-age tale this year.

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  1. Thank you!

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