In Review: Jeune Femme
Director: Léonor Serraille
Jeune Femme, the first film from writer/director Léonor Serraille, has also been released under the title Montparnasse Bienvenüe (after a subway station in Paris) but could have easily been given another: How to Wing it When You’re Newly Single and Broke.
This Cannes prize-winning comedy-drama is worth engaging in purely for its excellent central performance from relative newcomer Laetitia Dosch. She plays post-breakup Paula who is attempting to get her life back together in Paris. It’s a straightforward narrative and character study but one that is delivered with a refreshing realism that comes in the form of the supremely watchable protagonist. We spend a considerable amount of time with Paula as she wonders the streets, rides the subways and makes new acquaintances. As we gradually get to know her, her charm and endearing nature shine through.
Serraille and Dosch do an excellent job of creating some highly funny scenes; in the most comic moments, it’s Paula’s innocence and character that help make them believable. She doesn’t have an agenda or an ulterior motive, she is simply trying her hardest to get by. When she interviews to work in a lingerie shop, for example, we witness her giving her all - an immature but likeable interview style that leads her to stay in her seat slightly longer than is acceptable, thank the interviewer profusely and conclude that she would adore working there.
Later, as she cleans a house for a family who has employed her and given her a tiny room, she is stumbled upon as she unsuccessfully plays their saxophone. It’s an amusing moment that shows Paula’s carefree nature yet Dosch is also able to convey sadness behind her eyes; the mother who clocked her is a similar age but they are worlds apart. ‘I’d rather you didn’t touch it,’ she’s told.
The film is refreshing, too, in that we don’t meet Paula’s ex until the final act. By doing this, we are given space to get to know who she really is before she makes complex decisions that will affect the rest of her life.
Also, for all the comedic silliness and moments of sadness, it’s surprisingly uplifting - a truly modern portrayal of relationships and city life but one with a character that’s worth rooting for. TS