Forbidden games in Duffy’s All Good Children
by Bénédicte Prot
Irish director Alicia Duffy, a protégé of the Cannes Film Festival (her Cinéfondation residency in 2002 resulted in the short The Most Beautiful Man in the World, in official selection in 2003), is this year vying for the Camera d'Or with her debut feature, All Good Children.
This coming-of-age film paints a realist portrait in gradual touches, reinforced by a cinematography that captures the magic and anxiety in a child’s gaze (that of Dara, whose blue eyes are studied intensely by the camera), using a delicately subjective approach.
The anxious opening shows a car driving along in the pitch dark, taking two Irish boys whose mother has just died to the house of their French aunt – the sister of their ever-absent father. After an initial period of disorientation, 12-year-old Dara meets a pre-adolescent Lolitesque English girl named Bella, who is amused by his shyness and brazenly drives this new little suitor into a corner. Desperately in fear of abandonment, he thus becomes dependent on this new "friendship".
A few impishly mischievous gazes through the branches while the sun in the undergrowth sets her red hair ablaze, the word "fuck" which she forces him to say and a furtive kiss planted on his lips awaken a disturbing boldness in the boy. As a result, Bella ends up preferring the company of his brother, the well-behaved and gentle Eoin, while Dara starts to explore the shade of those old lofts where old shotguns are kept.
The poetic-neurotic thoughts uttered by Dara in voice-off accompany the descent into darkness of his fragile young mind and his retreat into a foetal position: the brighter the light is, the more the darkness blackens. There’s only one step into the unknown from innocent squabbles to spontaneous violence like a moment of forgetting, from the pastoral to the awful ending that is heralded by an incongruous firework. The disgusting insect of the plunge into madness will finish off the remains of the joyful country banquet of those last moments of innocence.
(Translated from French)
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