Actress-helmer Zabou Breitman (“Someone I Loved”) delivers a heartfelt if somewhat simplistic coming-of-ager in “No and Me,” the story of a teenage girl’s relationship with a 19-year-old vagabond she welcomes into her family’s home. While Breitman doesn’t always avoid the pedantic sort of sentimentality that tends to burden dramas about homeless people, she does manage to approach her subject with a certain delicacy, exacting credible performances from a young cast and gracing the screen with her usual stylistic flourishes. Pic should perform modestly amid crowded Gallic competish (21 features opened in its week of release); Francophone shelters beckon offshore.
Based on a novel by Delphine de Vigan and adapted by Breitman and regular co-scribe Agnes de Sacy, narrative follows precocious 13-year-old Lou (Nina Rodriguez), a straight-A student who suffers from the emotional vacuum left in her family by the death of an infant sister. While preparing a school report on Paris’ community of SDF (the official term in France for the homeless), she meets Nora, aka “No” (Julie-Marie Parmentier), a feisty street urchin who spends her days in and around the Gare d’Austerlitz train station.
When the two gals eventually bond, Lou convinces her straight-arrow dad (Bernard Campan) and catatonically depressive mom (Breitman) to allow No to move in. As can be expected, the result is not exactly positive, though it’s far from the mayhem depicted in Jean Renoir’s “Boudu Saved From Drowning,” another tale of a Parisian family welcoming a homeless person into their bourgeois foyer. If anything, No’s inspired presence allows Lou to blossom in unexpected ways, especially vis-a-vis a high school heartthrob (Antonin Chalon).
Using plenty of over-the-shoulder camerawork (by regular d.p. Michel Amathieu) and a whimsical voiceover to narrate events from Lou’s viewpoint, Breitman convincingly portrays her protag’s growing pains in the face of her highly unstable though rather likable newfound friend. On the other hand, the helmer’s depiction of No’s social strife never feels credible, and as the denouement proves, No serves mostly as a tool to help Lou and her folks deal with their many issues.
Talented young thesp Rodriguez (“The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”) gives Lou plenty of depth while revealing her character’s charming adolescent innocence. As the raucous No, Parmentier (“Around a Small Mountain”) often exaggerates the gutter accent and vocabulary, and is best when she tamps her performance down during the pic’s midsection. Campan and Breitman offer strong support, especially in the final reels.
Tech credits are polished, though the soundtrack tends to be overstuffed with mood-inducing tracks that range from Purcell to Portishead.