Alice (Emilie Piponnier) finds herself in a nasty situation. Her husband has disappeared – the theatrical and charming François (Martin Swabey), a story-teller amidst the unveiling debt and dishonesty. Kind Alice, seemingly let down by most people she encounters, searches for clues in their shared but unread bank statements and papers. In order to overcome financial disaster, she becomes Sophia, a woman who learns to know her value and does not hesitate to ask for what she deserves, while gaining Lisa (Chloe Boreham) – new colleague, purveyor of useful tips, and apparently only genuine friend.
As Alice absorbs the tears and desires of her clients, returning home to her young son and desperate François, both needing her support, it is clear that she is needed by everyone. The underlying hypocrisy in the storyline is palpable, with sex appearing transactional, and women being useful when they calm down and keep their mouths shut.
I saw ALICE a couple of months ago and I have continued to think about it since. The premise of the story, a woman who despite earning the income in the relationship fails to read her bank statements, is a common one. Law courts are filled with people who fully entrusted their money to their partners, blinded by love or disinterest or both. The film’s multiple layers while sometimes feeling contradictory, work together, and the evolution of Alice’s character is compelling.
From dependable working wife and mother, carrying all of the domestic and emotional load, to a person who begins to trust her own instinct, which includes saying no. “You have won, we’re even”, says François, and in that final line lies a deep incomprehension about unexpressed needs and survival. Some may find these aspects a little contrived but others may feel this is secondary to its ability to foreground perplexing and all-too pertinent issues.
French-based Australian writer, director and producer, Josephine Mackerras made her Parisian film while facing a delay on another project. Working with a small budget, an available set – her own apartment – and a generous team, Mackerras has created an intriguing and complex mix of comedy, horror and tragedy.
ALICE has been justly rewarded including the Grand Jury prize at SXSW (2019) as well as Best Independent Feature, the Audience Award and Best Director at the 2019 River Run International Film Festival.
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