Watchable but rather slight, “Cold Showers” marks the feature debut for French short documentary filmmaker Antony Cordier. Pic is in essence three different movies layered on top of each other: They all involve a 17-year-old working-class kid who competes at judo, gets into an emotionally awkward menage a trois with his g.f., and deals with his neurotic mom and booze-hound dad. Acquired already by Bac for local distribution, erotic content may make “Cold Showers” an invitingly warm bath for international buyers and fest programmers, but it won’t wash as anything other than a ultra-niche release abroad.
Lead protag Mickael (non-pro newcomer Johan Libereau) fits into none of the usual clique pigeon holes familiar from contempo American teen movies. Although he’s the star player in his judo club, he’s not a regular jock since he’s also a good student (even if he confuses the outline of China with the United States on a geography test). He even gets on well with his folks.
Mickael’s two big passions are judo and his curvy squeeze Vanessa (Salome Stevenin, “Mischka”), with whom he regularly has sex (at one point on an ice rink while wearing skates, which sounds more dangerous than it looks).
When Mickael becomes pals with fellow judo-club member Clement (Pierre Perrier), a rich kid whose dad (Aurelien Recoing) is sponsoring their team, the three eventually end up having a different kind of tumble together on the mats during a practice session one day. Although the three seem completely unfazed by the experience afterward, a later attempt to check into a hotel room brings Mickael’s latent jealousy of Clement to the surface.
Meanwhile, Mickael’s skating-rink cleaner mom Annie (Florence Thomassin from “A Very Long Engagement”) is comically obsessed with saving money and even insists on using pliers to get the very last of the toothpaste out of the tube. She bickers constantly with Mickael’s taxi-driver dad Gerard (veteran thesp Jean-Philippe Ecoffey), especially over his drinking, although the two clearly dote on each other.
But as amusing to watch as the more-experienced thesps’ perfs are, the grown-ups’ story barely knits together with the kids’ and feels tacked on. Rambling script by helmer with input from Julie Peyr also covers Mickael’s struggle to lose 20 pounds in order to fight in at smaller competitive weight, but this subplot adds little dramatic impact although the sportsman’s dieting tips are handy.
Cordier coaxes easy-going perfs all-round, particularly from the young’uns, but has a less assured grasp of pacing and narrative. It feels like Rohmer Lite, but without Rohmer’s knack for nuanced dialogue.
Tech package is adequate but uninteresting, with the general look and sound on a par with similar low-budget French pics. Full frontal male and female nudity, as well as the sex scenes, will probably stop film being seen by the teen demographic depicted in most territories.