Roaring down the trail blazed by the likes of Lena Dunham’s Girls, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag and Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child, Jeune Femme is the most memorable and entertaining film of the festival so far. The similarities to all three of these works are uncanny at times, as we follow Paula (Dosch), an irresponsible, endearing young woman struggling with her mental health and the ruins of her personal life.
Dosch is phenomenal in the lead role, with charisma to burn and a mouth that won’t quit. She fires out a stream of consciousness full of laugh-out-loud lines but despite her brash first impression, she is far more fragile than that. Her brave attempts at keeping up appearances and her unflappable energy only paper over the fact she has very few people in her life.
She is estranged from her mother, her friends are almost nowhere to be seen and her long-term boyfriend has just dumped her. Unlike Hannah Horvath, for example, it’s hard to work out why. Paula may be prone to mistakes, but she’s also a passionate and joyous person. Her loneliness and the bravado she hides it with are almost painful to watch.
First-time director Léonor Serraille channels Dosch’s energy with enviable skill, bringing a flexible vision that rides with the peaks and troughs of Paula’s moods. Working with DoP Émilie Noblet she shoots Paula’s manic moments with a handheld camera, but is just as accomplished framing beautiful fixed shots for simpler, smaller fragments of film. The pair conjure the perfect shot for every moment in the script.
Remember the names of Léonor Serraille and Laetitia Dosch. If there’s any justice you’ll be seeing a lot more of them in years to come. The pair have created a hilarious, touching and magnetic Jeune Femme with Paula, a character you won’t be able to forget.
CAST: Laetitia Dosch, Souleymane Seye Ndiaye, Grégoire Monsaingeon
DIRECTOR: Léonor Serraille
WRITERS: Clémence Carré and Bastien Daret (collaboration), Léonor Serraille (dialogue and screenplay)
DoP: Émilie Noblet
SYNOPSIS: Broke, with nothing but her cat to her name and doors closing in her face, Paula is back in Paris after a long absence. As she meets different people along the way, there is one thing she knows for sure: she’s determined to make a new start and she’ll do it with style and panache.