Panorama | Spotlight on France
Valérie Massadian’s second feature, following 2011’s Nana, is again about a young woman coming to understand the world, one day at a time. But unlike the four-year-old Nana, Milla’s eponymous protagonist—17, but older than her years, played by Séverine Jonkeere, who was discovered in a teen shelter—has already graduated from the middle school of life. She learns the lessons of adulthood, and that takes time. Completely bereft of sentimentality, Massadian’s expansive portrait unfolds in a port town in northern France, where Milla and her boyfriend Lou set up in an empty house that gradually becomes a home, two lovers alone in a cruel world represented by the crashing of the waves. Life itself (and, indeed, nature) intervenes after Lou takes a job at sea, and Milla, suddenly with child—Massadian interrupts her determined naturalism with both narrative ellipses and moments of brazen artificiality—must persevere.
With her precise photographic eye, Massadian crafts an empathetic mise-en-scène that is, at the same time, distancing and intimate; as in Nana, she places her camera in the right place to record her characters, or the dappling light as it enters a house through curtains. Sometimes to be simple is to be daring, and in creating Milla’s world and allowing her to live in it, Massadian has fashioned a moving, memorable and transformative work that begins and ends with two different, yet equal, kinds of love.
Special Jury Prize, Locarno 17