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Don’t Worry, I’m Fine

Helmer Philippe Lioret tackles the stifling prefab conformity of the Parisian suburbs in the ironically titled "Don't Worry, I'm Fine." A young woman's search for her missing twin brother leads her through some potentially pedestrian TV-movie territory, including a standard-issue dysfunctional family and a bout with near-fatal anorexia.

With:
With: Melanie Laurent, Kad Merad, Julien Boisselier, Aissa Maiga, Isabelle Renauld, Simon Buret.

After the storm-tossed isolation of a Brittany lighthouse in his 2004 “The Light,” helmer Philippe Lioret tackles the stifling prefab conformity of the Parisian suburbs in the ironically titled “Don’t Worry, I’m Fine.” A young woman’s search for her missing twin brother leads her through some potentially pedestrian TV-movie territory, including a standard-issue dysfunctional family and a bout with near-fatal anorexia. But Lioret’s assured direction, a well-constructed script and superbly understated perfs ultimately steer this heroine down more nuanced, less traveled paths. “Fine,” which opened Sept. 6 in France, should strengthen soundman-turned-director Lioret’s already solid reputation.

Nineteen-year-old Lili (a radiant turn by rising star Melanie Laurent) returns from her summer vacation in Barcelona with new fast friends, Lea (Aissa Maiga) and Thomas (Julien Boisselier), only to discover that her twin bro, Loic, has fled after a fight with their father, Paul (popular vet thesp Kad Merad).

Lili’s parents appear helpless or unwilling to explain Loic’s flight and account for his uncharacteristic failure to respond to his twin’s increasingly desperate cell phone messages. Unable to eat or sleep, Lili ends up in an anorexic hospital ward where one-size-fits-all treatment aggravates the problem.

Lili is finally saved by a missive from Loic, the first of many posted from different cities in France. On the mend but refusing to return to her university studies, Lili gets a job as a supermarket cashier, her existence staying on hold until she can find her sibling, Loic’s sporadic postcards keeping hope alive.

Romance beckons in the form of her growing closeness with pal Thomas, who, as it turns out, grew up a few kilometers away. Indeed, in these streets of rows upon rows of identical detached houses, where only the door color distinguishes one residence from another, one can apparently open any door and find exactly the same nervously apologetic mother and bitterly sniping father. Thomas, like her brother, shares Lili’s past.

As the pic progresses, Lili’s vision of her parents subtly shifts as revelations totally redefine the family dynamics. Helmer Lioret consummately compresses the daughter’s slowly dawning awareness of her parents’ own autonomy into a relatively short time-span without forcing the issue. Changing patterns of identification and allegiance evolve at their own thoughtful tempo while the mystery of the missing twin successfully sustains the drama.

Thesping is uniformly and quietly superlative. Laurent makes her vibrant character’s downward spiral totally believable without indulging in moody sullenness. Merad’s father figure blossoms almost imperceptibly to reveal unexpected depths. And Boisselier’s kindly b.f. Thomas never fades into blandness.

Tech credits are topnotch. Sacha Wiernik’s serene lensing complements both the artificial uniformity of suburbia and the fully fleshed-out characters that navigate through it.

Don't Worry, I'm Fine

France

Production: A Nord-Ouest/Studio Canal/France 3 production. Produced by Christophe Rossignon. Executive producer, Eve Machuel. Directed by Philippe Lioret. Screenplay, Lioret, Olivier Adam, from a novel by Adam.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Sacha Wiernik; editor, Andrea Sedlackova; production designer, Yves Brover; sound (Dolby Digital), Pierre Excoffier, Germain Boulay; associate producer, Philippe Boeffard; casting, Laure Cochener. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (competing), Aug. 30, 2006. Running time: 86 MIN.

With: With: Melanie Laurent, Kad Merad, Julien Boisselier, Aissa Maiga, Isabelle Renauld, Simon Buret.

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