Originally released in France June 5th, 2013; Limited release in U.S. February 7th, 2014
1 hr 26 mins
Review by Robert Reade
This movie introduces us to Antoinette Novack, Nénette as she is called, a child trapped in an adult's body. She was a tiny baby, she says, perhaps premature, and this may be why fifty years later she remains frozen in a childlike state emotionally. She laughs, cries, pouts, mopes, primps, and smiles easily and readily and, as the film opens, we see her with her pet tortoise at her mother's funeral. Her mother's demise means that Nénette must now live at an assisted living facility but the administrator is adamant that her pet will not be allowed. And so she leaves, unnoticed, with her tortoise to find her estranged father. Along the way she naps in a field and, when she awakes, she discovers that her tortoise has decided to make a break for it. She quickly retrieves the fugitive and then sees a rabbit which she follows into the woods leaving her valise behind.
Now lost, she stumbles upon a rave and is befriended by the members of the band, Black Iron Bitches [real name, Flaming Pussy] and Silver, who take her to her father's pharmacy. There she finds out that her father is dead [tears] and that she has a brother, Paul [joy]. But, as elated as she is, her brother - a dour, irascible, ill-tempered fellow - is the polar opposite. He quickly shunts her off to a hotel, and plans to return her by train next morning. Left alone, Nénette goes wandering off again and reunites with the band playing at a music festival near the hotel. What follows is a roller coaster ride that takes Paul from ecstasy filled euphoria to the depths of despair and transforms his relationship with his half-sister and his own estranged son and grand daughter.
This is a wonderful film, well-written and superbly directed, with Mme. Balasko performing this trifecta with perfect aplomb and it is highly recommended. The supporting cast, anchored by old friend and collaborator, Michel Blanc, and her husband, George Aguilar, in the role of the good-natured Silver, is excellent. This is a comedy that handles a sensitive subject without sacrificing the dignity of its lead character and is well paced thanks, in part, to its original score by Christophe Julien. There ought to be more films like this as they could provide a teachable moment for those who see special needs people as wholly imperfect. Mme. Balasko's Nénette is credible, engaging, and delightful and this movie was a joy to watch.
Director: Josiane Balasko
Screenplay: Josiane Balasko, Franck Lee Joseph
- Josiane Balasko as Antoinette Novack, dite Nénette
- Michel Blanc as Paul Bérard
- Brigitte Roüan as Véronique
- Françoise Lépine as Françoise
- George Aguilar as Silver
- Christine Murillo as Mme Lefèvre
- Grégoire Baujat as Maxime
- Jean-Yves Chatelais as Patrick Régnier
- Stéphan Wojtowicz as Maître Bonvallet
- Chantal Banlier as Mme Lavreau
- Sarah Suco as Too Much (as Sara Suco)
- Cléo Revel as Lilas
- Souria Adèle as Yvonne
- Madeleine Revel as Lilas
- Daniel-Jean Colloredo as Le prêtre