The Cannes Film Festival opens with a stronger-than-usual domestic drama, the second directed by a woman, actress-director Emmanuelle Bercot, who is also starring in competition film “Mon Roi,” from another woman actor-director, Maiwenn (“Polisse”).
Catherine Deneuve is superb as an authoritative yet empathetic judge who takes extraordinary control of the life of six-year-old Malony when his mother (Sara Forestier) dumps him in her office, one with which we become familiar over a decade. She removes any sharp objects before Malony makes a visit. Rookie actor Rod Paradot brings power and vulnerability to the role of the volatile young Malony, who loves his mother–and even the judge–but can’t handle any criticism or authority. He goes from zero to sixty in seconds, often self-destructively, and loves stealing cars.
Read Indiewire’s review here.
Benoit Magimel plays the counselor who bonds with the kid–countless people are invested in saving him. The question is whether that is possible, and we root for him as he moves through the system, taking steps forward and back, and falling in love. Bercot admitted to admiring Francois Truffaut (whose “400 Blows” comes to mind, along with “Short Term 12” and “Mommy”) and tried to shoot a beautiful film that was more than merely naturalistic. She succeeds.
Should the film have been entered in the competition? “Perhaps Thierry Fremaux could answer that question,” said a smiling Bercot at the press conference. “There were so many French films that the committee wanted to choose. To be sure that ‘Standing Tall’ could be present at the festival, the solution was to open the festival. Perhaps if we had refused we’d be in competition.” Despite having just two women directors in competition (out of 19 films), she felt that it was an honor to be selected for the opening. 77% of directors in France are men, she admitted, but added that she feels no discrimination: “I don’t feel I am a minority in France. Things are working in the right direction. It will take time for women to be on an equal standing with men. We have to catch up with 50 years of history.”
Deneuve also praised the festival for picking “Standing Tall,” adding: “This film is not a blockbuster type film, it is an arthouse film, it was important for it to open the festival at a time which is very difficult in France.”
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The film opens in France this week as a commercial local entry, but perhaps will not translate on a broad scale internationally. While it’s well-written and realized, the movie takes its time and could have been more tightly edited.
I look forward to more work from Bercot and especially, Paradot, the festival’s first breakout discovery.