One of the fantastic things about the Cannes Film Festival is that it is one of the greatest festivals in the world for celebrating female talent. From fresh and exciting directors such as Chloe Zhao, whose film The Rider is taking the festival by storm, to the likes of veterans Nicole Kidman and Isabelle Huppert still making their presence felt, female talent is everywhere to be seen and enjoyed. One such film that also utilises plentiful female skills and craft is Jeune Femme, another of the films vying for the Un Certain Regard award.
From director Léonor Serraille, Jeune Femme follows free-spirited and outspoken thirty-something Paula (Laetitia Dosch) as she looks to move on from being thrown out by her boyfriend and find a new lease of life without him. Initially struggling to find herself even a bed to sleep in, Paula finally finds her feet as she gets a job as a babysitter, before also gaining a spot as a store clerk for a lingerie department.
With her life seemingly getting back on track, Paula finds that leaving behind her ex-boyfriend may not be as easy at it seems, especially when he looks to get back in contact with her after a long absence.
From its opening moments in which lead character Paula shows that she is far from a pushover, Jeune Femme looks to pull no punches whatsoever in presenting to its audience a story of female strength and empowerment. With Paula bellowing her way through an examination on her current physical and mental state – all following an altercation that sees her smash her head on her ex’s front door – the scene is ultimately set for this newly single woman to take it to the world. These first twenty minutes of the film prove to be the most powerful and indeed the funniest, but sadly there is a drop in quality once we finally delve into Paula’s next steps.
Once Paula becomes accustomed with her new job roles, as we get familiar with her, the film loses part of its shine that it shows very early on. The frailties in the character showing certainly aren’t a bad thing, but with them come that loss of anything truly memorable and instead we follow a rather routine narrative from there on, with relationships with other characters sadly unexplored to great depth. A potential love interest in Soleymane Seye Ndiaye’s security guard is all too paper thin and Paula’s eventual connection with the young girl she looks after really requires a touch more meat on the bones.
As with Paula’s situation with her ex-boyfriend, it undoubtedly brings a few laughs by way of the cat she has essentially stolen from him, but this is really the core device used to drive this part of the plot, with a mis-placed and unsettling scene towards the close of the film involving her ex muddling the tone to a great extent.
Jeune Femme is by no means a bad film, but it is one slowed down by its inability to continue on from its superb opening twenty minutes. While leading star Laetitia Dosch is a quintessential leading lady, the film’s content lets her down at times and instead of feeling all empowering by its close it does instead end abruptly and imbalanced. Still worth a watch but other Un Certain Regard films will knock this one down lower on the must-see list.