“I don’t belong to anyone,” says Rose firmly. She is the mother of four sons and travels to France with her two youngest, five and ten years old. She is from the Ivory Coast, it is 1989, and immigration from the former French colony is still relatively free.
Around the beautiful and life-hungry Rose and the sons Jean and Ernest, Léonor Serraille spins a three-part dancing rhythmic and beautifully moving story that runs right up to today’s 2000s.
It is about housing, work, school, growing up, class, crises, family, broken promises and love – yes, simply and as they usually say: “about life itself”. But it is not the usual unequivocal story about immigrants as victims, but an unusually multi-layered story, where each of the three in turn gets to take center stage.
Starting with i.e. the multifaceted Rose, who is accommodated together with her sons in a small room with a couple of record-breaking relatives in one of the suburbs of Paris. Already during the welcome party, she is courted by a countryman, whom she rejects despite the relatives’ eager attempts to point him out as a suitable partner. She gets a job as a hotel maid. She has a casual relationship with a Tunisian construction worker filled with sensual warmth and hope that ends when his work forces him to move on.
So does Rose, as the sons grow older under her relentless admonitions to do well in school, never cry in public, and always be number one. In Rouen, the sons have to live on their own every week while Rose commutes to work. For Jean, the responsibility becomes too heavy. Ernest, witnessing the life journeys of his mother and brother, gets the last word.
You just have to follow along, all according to accompanying words from Arthur Rimbaud, Blaise Pascal and Gustave Flaubert, which are effortlessly added to the trio’s different experiences and the passage of time.
Much good can be said about Annabelle Lengronne in the role of Rose. About her smoking, increasingly intense as her hopes wither. About her reluctant adaptation via a furrowed brow and a look beyond. Or about her escape when she was invited to a bizarre champagne party with her coworkers by the hotel owner on his estate.
The excellent choice av young actors of their different ages are also of the highest quality. During the course of the film, one can also philosophize about the harvests of chance and the very human inability to combine the present with the past and the future.
Everything is captured in Hélène Louvart’s incomparable images: the breathing space in verdant parks, the feel of grass against the palm of your hand, a tentative love walk among the vines, a salty first kiss and the distance to an idyllic family dinner in the country.
And then we have the music and the dancing. From Bach to modern songs, from welcoming family fun to drugged solo dance. That alone says as much about the three of them as all the other things perhaps left unsaid.
See more. Three other French films about growing up: “The 400 blows” (1959), “While We Fall” (1995), “Between the walls” (2008).
Read other film and television reviews in DN and more texts by Eva af Geijerstam.