This Life Of Mine


Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Agnès Jaoui gives a bravura performance in Sophie Fillière’s last film This Life Of Mine which was awarded a Coup de Coeur prize
"The character could have proved irksome in less talented hands than Jaoui who invests her character with self-deprecating humour and a sense of resilience." | Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Directors’ Fortnight

It is curious how life and death interweave and collide in the final feature from French director Sophie Fillières who passed away aged only 58 last year, leaving notes written from her hospital bed on how the film should be completed.

A heightened poignancy, therefore, surrounds this autobiographical study of a mid-life crisis for its main protagonist Barberie Bichette (a bravura performance from Agnès Jaoui) who is separated from her husband and thoroughly bored with her job as an advertising copywriter. It emerges she is also a published novelist and poet.

Her mental state is revealed in a series of encounters with her circle of support, family and acquaintances including her grown-up son and daughter (Edouard Sulpice and Angelina Woreth) and sister (Valérie Donzeli) who regard her behaviour with a mix of disinterested intrigue and mounting concern. Meanwhile her therapist listens indulgently but fails to provide any real assistance while colleagues and friends indulge her caprices.

The character could have proved irksome in less talented hands than Jaoui who invests her character with self-deprecating humour and a sense of resilience.

There are haphazard encounters along the way including a man Bertrand (Laurent Capelluto) who starts chatting to her and insisting that they were involved some 40 years previously, but Barbie has no memory of him or the affair. We’re never sure precisely what condition has provoked Barbie’s disconnected behaviour which could be mental or physical or a combination of both.

Jaoui evokes Barberie’s internal conflicts with no holds barred candour, complaining desperately at one point that: “I’m 55 and still don’t know what my nature is.” Eventually she does have a full-scaled breakdown and ends up a psychiatric facility.

On release she heads off on her own for England and Scotland where she used to spend childhood summers, ending up in the Highlands where she finds Philippe Katerine as an unlikely free-spirited musical and a denouement of sorts.

As a portrait of the emotional patchwork of a breakdown the under-stated film (completed by the director’s own children Agathe and Adam Bonitzer) provides a fitting testimony to Sophie Fillière’s quirky body of work which always has reflected on the absurdities and vagaries of life.

Reviewed on: 27 May 2024
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A woman travels to Scotland in a bid to reinvigorate her life.

Director: Sophie Fillières

Writer: Sophie Fillières

Starring: Agnès Jaoui, Valérie Donzelli, Emmanuel Salinger, Philippe Katerine, Édouard Sulpice, Angelina Woreth

Year: 2024

Runtime: 99 minutes

Country: France


Cannes 2024

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