Her Way


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Her Way
"It's not an easy watch, but it is a good one." | Photo: Courtesy of Glasgow Film Festival

Marie's son Adrien has been expelled, not the first time he has had difficulty with authority or academia. There is a potential, however, a private culinary school that represents an opportunity, and a good one. The problem is the cost. The first tranche of which, itself several thousand Euros, must be paid, in full, in advance.

That's not the start, the opening with its neon outlines and Marie with a new client. 45 Euros, it would have cost him more to insult her. In a film where there's often conflict and shouting this is an unflinching and generally positive, though complex, portrait of someone doing their best in difficult circumstances. Supporting herself and her son through sex work, Marie (Laure Calamy) delivers a strong performance. There are few moments where she's not on screen. Even for an eponymous protagonist this is no small burden.

Copy picture

Calamy and writer/director Cecile Ducrocq have worked together before, including a short, La Contre-Allée, which explores similar thematic territory. Amongst the film's may points of discomfort are the reactions of Marie and the other native French girls to African and European migrants working in similar and adjacent areas. That film's title was translated as 'Back Alley' though the geographical entity is closer to Glasgow's lanes, parallel to the main streets. More than that though, the etymology of that, contre, against, allee, to go, speaks of oppositional natures. Noe Bach's cinematography serves two films at the 2022 Glasgow Film Festival, but there is perhaps less in common between this and Anais In Love than quality and an eponymous female protagonist. This film is called Her Way, but it's actually Une Femme Du Monde, literally 'A Woman Of The World'. Worldly it is, and more.

Polyglot, politically complex, some small issues with subtitling are perhaps places where something that works so well could work a little better. 'Ecoute' being translated not as 'listen' but as 'look' is fair enough, that's idiomatic rather than literal translation, but 'crème fraiche' is not 'sour cream' however skilled one might be as a chef.

These things matter because so much care and quality is visible elsewhere. Marie is politically active, there's a march in support of the repeal of France's client criminalisation law. There's discussion of how that makes work unsafe, how it leads to competition that endangers others. There's a Big Mouth Billy Bass but there are other fish on other lines, others who have been caught and displayed.

At one point Marie is working in Offenburg, commuting from Strasbourg, about 30 minutes' drive across the border into Germany but much longer after nightshift when the traffic is picking up. It's one of a myriad moments of microcosm, crossing borders for work and the precarity associated with it. The club might be lit with UV that turns already bright colours into eye-popping outlines but it's illuminating in other ways.

There's some violence, several sex scenes. While the test for obscenity might be in the looking, the best argument for either is that they tell us something about character we might not otherwise have learned. Absolutely true here, not just for Marie but for those she encounters. Her voice is often raised but that's not the only time we hear her. There's even, in terms of easy cliché, something approximating a car chase, but much as with Glasgow Film Festival companion La Civil it is an almost perambulatory pursuit. It's not the method of the following that matters, but the act.

As Adrien, Nissim Renard manages a sullenness that will be familiar to anyone who has been or encountered late teenagers, that casting about for meaning and purpose. In his attempts to get into the school the help of 'the lawyer' (Romain Brau) is enlisted. This is for the covering letter, the personal statement, interview practise too. These are some difficult scenes, not quite pro-bono as there is a promise of crepes but nonetheless nearly thankless. Misgendered, insulted, raised voices and unhelpful contributions create within this film an episode of a few minutes that would stand alone as a short. It's beautifully constructed in its variety, at rather than of the kitchen sink. Adrien tells a story about why he likes to cook but how he gets to that story is a compelling tale itself.

There is theft, drug-dealing, no small quantity of sex work, violence of various kinds and threats of same, an exhaustion and a weariness that comes with worldliness. That original title speaks to universalities that are often obfuscated or elided, but the film speaks well to them even without. It's not an easy watch, but it is a good one. What might have felt episodic and disconnected is linked by performance and presentation to something that is rhythmic, cyclic, affecting. Calamy manages to be expressive even through exhaustion, exasperation.

In a film full of incident and invention a moment near the close still strikes, a lemon crème brulée. The wheres and whys of that dessert I will leave as a surprise, but there's something in that care, craft, that sweetness and sharpness, that tough exterior that's representative of the whole. This is a treat.

Reviewed on: 07 Mar 2022
Share this with others on...
Her Way packshot
Marie worked as a sex work­er for 20 years. To ensure her son’s future, Marie wants to pay for his stud­ies. She needs mon­ey, quickly.

Director: Cécile Ducrocq

Writer: Cécile Ducrocq

Starring: Laure Calamy, Nissim Renard, Denis Simonetta

Year: 2021

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: France

Search database:

If you like this, try:

Night Shift
The Rest Of The World