Eye For Film >> Movies >> Milla (2017) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Whatever happens in life, Milla's boyfriend (Luc Chessel) says to her "you will float". His choice of words may come to cause her pain but the point her makes is true.
Milla (Severine Jonckeere) is 17. She and her boyfriend are joyously in love. We watch them move from sleeping in a car to fixing up a squat, decorating it with things they find or steal making it nice, making it home. Every moment they spend together feels warm and good. Sex is playful and full of laughter. Even doing the laundry - by hand, in a bathtub - becomes a game. Although they are living hand to mouth, each meal seems like a banquet. Everything around Milla seems infused with beauty, as if she were a Disney princess scraping a living in the north of France. But the good times don't last.
The film follows Milla as she charts her course through a life she never expected. Complaining about laundry gives way to doing other people's in a hotel. Scavenging for food gives way to selling it as a supermarket cashier. She does what she has to do because she has a baby on the way. The biggest things in Milla's life are beyond her control but she copes with quiet strength, as many young people do, quite contrary to prevailing social narratives. We see the great weight of her grief only briefly, in a narrow corridor turned red by filtered sunlight. When her light, playful laughter returns it still feels real and spontaneous but is recognisable as a survival mechanism.
Jonckeere is ebullient in the lead yet there's a subtlety to her performance that communicates Milla's gradual passage from a life driven by instinct to one where she must take responsibility not only for herself but for her son. Her own son is cast in that role, guaranteeing chemistry between them, and he gets a large proportion of the dialogue in a film that is primarily observational. The sparseness of dialogue means that the focus is very much on behaviour, with viewers free to interpret that behaviour as they wish, but director Valérie Massadian (who also appears in a small role as Milla's colleague at the hotel) provides plenty of pointers.
Although some doubtless will find the film too slow or complain that not much happens in it, it has a seductive rhythm and is easy to immerse oneself in. It helps that Milla is such an engaging character. She may not have a lot of agency but sometimes what happens to people is as important to their journeys as what they do, and the way she herself observes, understands and learns - in parallel with the viewer - makes her story fascinating.Reviewed on: 12 Nov 2018