Review: ‘Which One Of Us’

A relaxed, airy contemplation of a girl's adolescence, "Which One of Us" combines the observant filmmaking of vet director Charles Belmont and the introspective writing of his daughter, Salome Blechmans. This inside-outside double view gives the film a firm but tender quality, and sans suicides, grossouts or any of the other usual tropes, pic shows teens as they are -- at least 2005 Gallic teens.

A relaxed, airy contemplation of a girl’s adolescence, “Which One of Us” combines the observant filmmaking of vet director Charles Belmont and the introspective writing of his daughter, Salome Blechmans. This inside-outside double view gives the film a firm but tender quality, and sans suicides, grossouts or any of the other usual tropes, pic shows teens as they are — at least 2005 Gallic teens. After local rollout in May, pic will do a modest round of fests and even more modest theatrical and vid play in French-friendly territories.

Because Belmont’s script is based on his daughter’s own fictional diary book, “Bebe’s Diary,” and Blechmans plays Bebe herself, she’s literally all over “Which One of Us.” It may be too enveloping for some, especially viewers allergic to large servings of voiceover narration. Bebe, like Bridget Jones and “Sex and the City’s” Carrie Bradshaw, makes sure auds know what she thinks every step of the way, even if it may already be obvious.

These aspects may keep the film from being quite as amiable as it aspires to be, but Belmont’s natural taste for New Wave-style filmmaking (including a loose, unmannered camera and an interest in quotidian chapters from life rather than a plot) and Blechmans’ warmth in front of his camera keep the film in balance.

Attending a high school full of distinctive teachers who would be the match of any in “The History Boys,” Bethsabee, or Bebe, Pasolini describes her life as rich with good girlfriends (Meriem Dahmani, Marie Davy, Anais Tobelem, Marina Ziolkowsky), her older brother Fabien (Maxime Kerzanet), her parents (Mariana Otero, Christian Chavagneux) and a good-looking guy Simo (Tewfik Jallab), to whom she’s attracted.

None of the elements in Bebe’s life take precedence over any others, leaving room for a repeated motif of Bebe thinking about where she’s going in life while riding a Paris bus to school, or hiccupping when she feels nervous. Why, with the pleasant if real enough domestic atmosphere, does Bebe suddenly blow up at her folks? “It’s a phase,” her father says, and, in this movie, that seems true enough.

Bebe’s father has a few lovely moments with her –one of them being a spontaneous dance through Paris’ Place Jacques Demy that’s a sweet tribute to the New Wave master–and, unlike most dads of movie teens, he isn’t an idiot.

Although Simo eventually disappoints Bebe, he isn’t demonized, and even a potentially grave scene when a drunk jerk tries to molest Bebe during a party on a houseboat avoids meller excess.

All of these moments, including the death of an uncle, are viewed as life passages, which are conveyed as Bebe’s direct experiences but also given some distance by Belmont’s thoughtful eye. The girl’s attraction to a Boho photo-artist named R (Clement Sibony) is less of a dalliance in romance than a sign that Bebe is growing.

Blechmans is so natural as the exploring, questioning Bebe that viewers may be fooled into thinking she is simply playing herself. Sibony enters pic with alluring mystery, and makes a strong impression. Cast is as easy-breezy as the film itself.

Production stands a few notches down from top-flight, but lack of slickness is an asset for such a diary pic.

Which One Of Us

France

Production

A Pyramide Distribution release (in France) of a Pyramide Prods. presentation in association with Canal Plus and Cine Cinema. (International sales: Pyramide Intl., Paris.) Produced by Fabienne Vonier. Executive producer, Laurent Champoussin. Directed, written by Charles Belmont, based on "Le Journal de Bebe" (Bebe's Diary) by Salome Blechmans.

Crew

Camera (color), Diane Baratier; editor, Marielle Issartel; music, Silvain Vanot; music supervisor, Francoise Marchesseau; production designer, Jean-Michel Adam; sound (Dolby Digital), Jean Umansky; supervising sound editor, Yves Servagent; assistant director, Matthieu Blanchard. Reviewed at AFI Los Angeles Film Festival, Nov. 9, 2006. Running time: 105 MIN.

With

Salome Blechmans, Clement Sibony, Tewfik Jallab, Maxime CQ Kerzanet, Meriem Dahmani, Marie Davy, Anais Tobelem, Marina Ziolkowsky, Mariana Otero, Christian Chavagneux. (French, English dialogue)
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