An alternately clumsy and compelling look at an unemployed working-class mother and her two daughters, “Leave a Little Love” suffers from didactic patches but has moments of offbeat and convincing grace. Scripter-helmer Zaida Ghorab-Volta sets aside the Franco-Algerian emphasis of her previous short films and 1994’s medium-length “Remember Me” to chronicle the fallout of industrial downsizing and hopes for the future of two generations. Women’s fests in particular should take note.
A few weeks shy of her 58th birthday, Monique (Andree Damant) is forced to take early retirement from her assembly-line job in a small textile firm. After a lifetime of hard work, the uneducated woman learns her retirement benefits will barely cover the rent on her modest apartment in the projects outside Paris. Her medical checkup and condescending treatment at the hands of textbook bureaucrats are blackly comic.
Monique’s “good” daughter, Gisele (Aurelia Petit), who lives at home, is rehearsing with a drama coach in hopes of entering the Drama Conservatory in Paris, but Mom thinks this is a pipe dream and offers no encouragement. The other daughter, Sandra (Lise Payen), is in a clinic recovering from a suicide attempt. When pals bust her out and go joy-riding, pic veers all over the map.
Ghorab-Volta has a lot to say and does so almost indiscriminately, lacing legitimate social concerns into hackneyed soap-opera-style scenes. But pic occasionally shines when exploring the territory between the two sisters or the thwarted, awkward pattern of ill-expressed love between mother and daughters.
Short, stocky Damant is on the nose as a disoriented worker-bee faced with the novelty of leisure time and the spooky prospects of an empty nest and borderline poverty.
Score is heavy on Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen and other vintage North American and French rock and pop songs.