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In Valérie Massadian’s second feature (after Nana, NZIFF12), Milla and her boyfriend Leo live an itinerant existence in the north of France. They are young, economic outsiders who set up in an abandoned house near the coast and start to build a tenuous life together. When Leo vanishes, Milla rebuilds her happiness around another kind of love.
Told with spare dialogue and at an unhurried pace that merges naturalism and lyricism, Milla enfolds us in the incidental moments of a life. Scenes, which often last for over a minute in a single frame, are interspersed with surreal interventions where time seems to fold in on itself: in one instance, a furious and unmoored rendition of the Violent Femmes’ ‘Add It Up’ is performed on gaudy striped carpet at the cheap hotel where Milla finds work as a cleaner. Alongside music, poetry plays an important role in the film with ‘The Tempest’, by 19th Century peasant poet Marie Ravenel, recited at a key narrative point.
The ocean is an almost constant presence throughout the film, restless and beautifully shot. The immersive natural soundscape draws you into the film’s painterly frames and the lives that are unfolding inside them. The cinematographer is Massadian’s son, Mel, and this isn’t the only key mother/son relationship. First-time-actor Séverine Jonckeere gives a nuanced performance as Milla. In the second half of the film, she acts alongside her own infant son, Ethan, in an intimate portrayal of single motherhood. Cat lovers can expect to be charmed by a rambunctious feline. — Catherine Bisley
“A quietly moving and unassumingly profound film about growing up, young motherhood, and life’s chance occurrences... Instead of distancing the viewer from the drama, the film’s bifurcated structure and Massadian’s casually radical approach to time – the narrative is more than once breached by unexpected conflations of music and memory – yield a strikingly tangible sense of accumulated experience, forming a beautifully symmetrical whole.” — Jordan Cronk, Film Comment