Filles Uniques

Filles Uniques


Reviewed by: Claire Sawers

This is another look at a "chalk and cheese" friendship, the type of coupling that transcends social class and defies common sense. This time, the reluctant soul sisters are a well-to-do judge and her feisty young defendant, in prison for shoplifting.

Carole (Sandrine Kiberlain) wears a neat chignon in her hair and sensible shoes on her feet. Tina (Sylvie Testud) prefers to leave her wild red curls untamed and steals expensive high heels. Their first encounter is an unlikely one. Tina is outside Carole's office, waiting to appear for parole. Carole, meanwhile, is trying unsucessfully to extract a statement from a young man whose string of indechiperable swearwords and street slang is pushing her closer and closer to the end of her tether.

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Stepping outside, she spots Tina. Assuming she is the type with a working knowledge of the most colourful expletives, she invites her to translate. Tina obliges, graciously. After shedding light on the hooligan's story of gun touting and cop killing, the ultra confident Tina treats Carole to a speech on the importance of wearing elegant footwear, even if the only way you can do it is by stealing. Fearless and brassy, there is something about this girl that appeals to Carole, but she hides any enthusiasm behind the disapproving frown that is a natural reflex in her line of work.

Tina shows up later at Carole's home after being released from prison, but is shown a lukewarm reception. Carole is flustered, stressed and clearly does not know how this random visitor could fit into her prim and proper existence. But as Tina begins to talk, her reckless, fun-loving take on life draws the sensible and excitement-starved Carole in like a magnet.

The pair begin to see more and more of each other and Tina agrees to act as an agent provocateur, in order to catch an evasive pimp that Carole is desperate to nail. As Tina becomes more involved in Carole's professional life, Carole begins to enjoy flirting with danger. Their meetings involve stealing, drinking, gambling and - shame on you, Carole! - a man in her hotel room late at night.

Watching the two women find common ground, and then wreak havoc upon it, is what makes this otherwise unremarkable film worthwhile. Carole is the responsible, successful type of friend that Tina has always wanted to have. For Carole, the friendship allows her to indulge secret bad girl fantasies and expose her long forgotten tattoo.

This bizarre, yet somehow natural, pairing of two lonely daughters - the title is a pun on "only child" and "unique girls" - is touching and more than a little satisfying. Uptight Carole was just crying out to let her hair down, and, judging by the superbly passionless scenes with her overworked husband (Vincent Lindon), her knickers, too.

Despite a contrived plot and series of highly unlikely coincidences, the characters are 100 per cent credible. The increasingly prolific Testud balances streetwise chutzpah with genuine warmth and vulnerability, while Kiberlain's transformation from Miss Prissy to devil-may-care corrupt judge is a delight to watch.

Reviewed on: 26 Oct 2003
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A female friendship develops between a strait-laced Parisian judge and a shoplifter.
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Director: Pierre Jolivet

Writer: Simon Michael, Pierre Jolivet

Starring: Sandrine Kiberlain, Sylvie Testud, François Berléand, Vincent Lindon, Roschdy Zem

Year: 2002

Runtime: 87 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: France


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