A Real Life

A Real Life


Reviewed by: James Benefield

A Real Life views the joie de vivre and je ne sais quoi of French New Wave cinema from a different angle. The sixties films of Godard, Truffaut, Malle and others presented young people on the run, in love and/or fiercely independent. It was all about the process of escaping, forging identity and slotting into a niche in a changing social landscape. The characters in A Real Life are also escaping. They just don't know what they are heading toward. Their actions have consequences, and life on the road is no idyll.

Two lost souls meet after a serious car accident, which almost kills one of them. This is Isabella (Florence Loiret Caille), a supply teacher. After an espresso in a grotty café, she walks into the road and is hit by a car. The first on the scene is Bruno (Guillame Depardieu), a petty thief. He barely has time to check her pulse before the ambulance arrives. They share a moment, in the middle of the road, but neither thinks they will see each other again.

Copy picture

Several weeks later, they chance into each other in a bar. Their spark turns into a flame. However, Bruno soon gets into some trouble with the police. This leaves Isabella with a choice of whether to turn Bruno in, or run away with him to start a new life.

The key to understanding the film is in the supporting characters, who represent the criminal life at different ages. There's the neighbour boy, Ali, who has begun the descent into a life of crime. And then there's an older man, Manu, who has been released after serving a five year jail sentence. Clearly, Manu's case is a tragedy. He avoids human contact, preferring to hide his head in a book. He is staying with Bruno until he finds his feet; he's got nobody else apart from this petty thief with dirty fingernails.

But the greater tragedy is in Ali, the teenager. The question hanging at the end of the film is whether all of the seeds of his fate have been sewn. Has his tragedy started already?

Things can't end well, can they? Director Sarah Leonor's film isn't perfect. It does tend to try to have it both ways. One on hand, the immoral and illegal actions of the pair are sometimes applauded for their audacity and personality. And, on the other, these same actions are then condemned for being self-destructive and selfish. Like its new wave counterparts, it can also be guilty of being a little self-consciously flashy.

However, here is a filmmaker who has reinterpreted and commented on films she clearly has an affection for. She does it with the help of two strong central performances and an air of true unpredictability.

Reviewed on: 20 Jun 2010
Share this with others on...
A Real Life packshot
A chance meeting following a car crash plunges a young woman into an unfamiliar criminal underworld.
Amazon link

Director: Sarah Petit

Writer: Emmanuelle Jacob, Sarah Petit

Starring: Guillaume Depardieu, Florence Loiret Caille, Jacques Nolot, Benjamin Wangermee, Rabah Nait Oufella, Fejria Deliba, Bruno Clairefond

Year: 2009

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: France


Search database: