×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toronto Film Review: ‘Orphan’

Four actresses play a character determined to escape her past in this experimental drama from French director Arnaud des Pallières.

With:
Adèle Haenel, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Solène Rigot, Gemma Arterton, Jalil Lespert, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Sergi López, Karim Leklou, Olivier Loustau.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4746516/

Known for his challenging, low-key portraits of men in search of trouble or revenge (“Parc,” “Michael Kohlhaas”), French director Arnaud des Pallières tackles a female protagonist for the first time in “Orphan,” an intriguing, narratively fractured portrait of a young woman fighting for her freedom at various stages of her life. While puzzling at first — four actresses who don’t look alike play the same character, including Adèle Exarchopoulos (“Blue is the Warmest Color”) and Adèle Haenel (“Love at First Fight”) — “Orphan” turns out to be des Pallières’ most accessible film for general audiences, who should be seduced by his appealing cast: Gemma Arterton and Sergi López are also part of the game.

When we first meet the central character, she goes by the name of Renée, a discreet schoolteacher trying to get pregnant with her boyfriend Darius (Jalil Lespert). Her uneventful life is turned upside-down by the sudden appearance of an old acquaintance, a gorgeous and intrepid woman recently released from jail (Arterton). The ex-convict demands her “share of the loot,” which leads us to think that Renée hasn’t always been an honest civil servant and is probably wanted by the police.

Without any sort of transition, we discover a new character, an audacious teenager named Karine (Solène Rigot), who regularly runs away from home and goes from man to man (López, Olivier Loustau) to forget about a violent father (Nicolas Duvauchelle) and a gloomy adolescence in the countryside. Could she be connected to this little girl, Kiki, almost a wild child whom we see happily playing on a wasteland until her two friends suddenly disappear? But then who is the young and pretty Sandra (Exarchopoulos), who just landed in Paris to start her adult life? Fresh and reckless, she replies to an old man’s ad in the newspaper — “young girl wanted” — and thanks to him finds a job in a hippodrome where money seems to fly and temptations are everywhere.

Among France’s most fearless and ambitious directors, des Pallières builds his film like a Russian doll, daring to picture one woman and four identities in no chronological order. Viewers may be disoriented at first — but then, so is Karine-Sandra-Renée — before realizing that a patient deconstruction of the character’s past en route to understanding her original childhood trauma is actually the only way to reach the heart and soul of a woman who chose to consider herself an orphan although both of her parents are probably still alive. (A special mention to the editors — Emilie Orsini, Guillaume Lauras and the director himself — who manage to lend a sense of consistency to the film’s extremely fragmented structure.)

The film’s sometimes cruel realism arises as much from Christelle Berthevas’s partly autobiographical script as it does from “Holy Motors” DP Yves Cape’s naturalistic and unromantic cinematography. Faces are filmed so closely that the most beautiful actresses, laid bare, all become ordinary women in distress, easy to relate to, with their artificial makeup or imperfect skins. Unfortunately this stimulating quasi-documentary approach is at times weakened by flat dialogue. Still, des Pallières offers a beautifully singular insight into a dauntless woman’s mind, prepared to reinvent herself ad infinitum until she achieves absolute freedom.

Toronto Film Review: 'Orphan'

Reviewed at Unifrance screening room, Paris, Aug. 24, 2016. (In Toronto Film Festival — Special Presentations.) Running time: 111 MIN. (Original title: “Orpheline”)

Production: (France) A Les Films Hatari, Les Films d’Ici production, in co-production with Arte France Cinéma, Rhônes Alpes Cinéma. (International sales: Le Pacte, Paris.) Producers: Michel Klein, Serge Lalou.

Crew: Director: Arnaud des Pallières. Screenplay: Christelle Berthevas, des Pallières. Camera (color): Yves Cape. Editors: Emilie Orsini, Arnaud des Pallières, Guillaume Lauras.

With: Adèle Haenel, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Solène Rigot, Gemma Arterton, Jalil Lespert, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Sergi López, Karim Leklou, Olivier Loustau.

More Film

  • BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

    Korea Box Office: 'Rhapsody' Reclaims Top Spot, Beats ‘Spider-Verse’

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” reclaimed top place at the South Korean box office, overtaking “Default,” after spending two weekends in second place. The Fox release earned $4.38 million from 554,000 admissions for a total of $61.0 million from 7.94 million admissions. In its seventh weekend of release “Rhapsody” accounted for 27% of the weekend box office. CJ [...]

  • China Box Office: ‘Totoro’ Triumphant as

    China Box Office: ‘Totoro’ Triumphant as ‘Aquaman’ Defies Newcomers

    “Aquaman” comfortably dominated the Chinese box office for the second weekend. It dropped 47% in its second week, but again accounted for the majority of all cinema business nationwide. The watery superhero movie earned $53.9 million, according to data from exhibition and distribution consultancy Artisan Gateway. It played on some 25,000 screens, or nearly half [...]

  • Aquaman 2018

    'Aquaman' Crosses $250 Million at Foreign Box Office

    Things are going swimmingly at the box office for “Aquaman” as the Warner Bros.’ superhero flick hits another major milestone overseas. James Wan’s take on the ruler of the seven seas just passed $250 million internationally, and a weekend haul of $126.4 million from 43 territories brings its foreign tally to $261.3 million. “Aquaman” — [...]

  • Mortal Engines

    'Mortal Engines' to Lose More Than $100 Million at Box Office

    “Mortal Engines,” a steampunk fantasy adventure, is also an epic flop. With a budget of just over $100 million and tens of millions in global marketing costs, executives at rival studios estimate that the movie will lose upwards of $100 million. Some even project that number could float to more than $125 million. “Mortal Engines” [...]

  • Thierry Frémaux, José Luis Rebordinos Honored

    Thierry Frémaux, José Luis Rebordinos Named Honorary Argentine Academy Members

    BUENOS AIRES — In a ceremony just before Friday’s prize announcements at Ventana Sur, Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux and José Luis Rebordinos, director of the San Sebastian Festival, were named honorary members of Argentina’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in a new move for the Academy, out through by its new president, Bernardo [...]

  • Nona

    Film Review: 'Nona'

    Twenty years and 12 features down the line, it’s still hard to peg the directorial sensibility of Michael Polish, with or without the presence of brother Mark as frequent co-writer and actor. His output has been all over the place, from early Lynchian quirkfests to the very middle-of-the-road inspirational dramedy “The Astronaut Farmer,” not to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content