Matriochkas: Review. By Trent Neely.
This short film from Belgium tells the story of Anna (Heloise Volle) a sixteen year old who is experiencing her sexual awakening. Anna lives with her mother Rebecca (Victoire Du Bois) with whom she shares a complicated relationship. Rebecca frequently has parties and a string of boyfriends that never stick around for a long time.
Anna is shown to have a dislike for both of these aspects of her mother’s lifestyle. We follow Anna as she hangs out with friends and sleeps with various boys during a summer of youthful exuberance and rebellion. Things take a turn however when Anna learns that she is unexpectedly pregnant. The rest of the film centers on Anna’s deliberation on whether to keep or terminate her pregnancy and the various obstacles she encounters along the way.
At the forefront of this film is a magnetic performance by Heloise Volle as Anna, fully encapsulating the multiple facets of this character. Volle seemingly effortlessly switches between playing a young woman enjoying the experiences and freedoms found during this new phase of life, and a young woman rapidly forced to mature and consider serious choices that will impact the rest of her life.
The performance is complimented by some arresting images crafted by cinematographer Olivier Boonjing and director Berangere Mc Neese. They choose to have the camera frequently be close on Volle’s face. This allows the actor to demonstrate the complex deliberations and emotions, both positive and negative that Anna is navigating, purely through expressions instead of relying on a lot of dialogue or voiceover.
The chemistry between Heloise Volle and Victoire Du Bois is also very strong, adding a lot of depth and nuance to a mother-daughter relationship despite a 22 minute runtime. Rebecca is portrayed as a character who was not prepared to take on the role of a mother, but in spite of this has strived to do the best that she can as she seeks to provide her daughter with a similar sense of inner strength.
For her part, Anna seems to care for her mother. But, in her mother, Anna sees a future she does not wish for herself. This tension between what her mother wants and what Anna herself thinks is best serves as a large source of conflict for her throughout the film. In addition, Guillaume Duhesme gives a layered performance as Rebecca’s boyfriend Nelson.
Who, at the start of the film seems to just be a part of the ensemble and another source of tension for Anna and Rebecca. However as the film progresses, Nelson becomes something of an important figure in Anna’s life without pulling focus from Anna’s story.
Another strong attribute of this film is the maturity with which it handles its subject matter. No character in the film, nor does the film itself seek to shame Anna for her choices and circumstances. Instead, the film seeks to help the audience understand the stress that a woman in that situation can be under, and how complex the realities of that situation really are.
If you want to see a film with nuanced performances, beautiful cinematography, and a script that tackles a complex subject with care and maturity, consider watching this film.
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