Review: Just Kids
- Christophe Blanc explores with great psychological accuracy and formal inventiveness the journey of grieving siblings left to their own devices
“There are no adults with us any more?” We are in the Grenoble courthouse and Jack (19 years old), Lisa (17) and Mathis (10) are facing the legal consequences of a series of disasters: the death of their ill mother two years prior, and the recent suicide of their father. Because the eldest among the children already has a job, he becomes responsible for his younger brother, together with his uncle David (who lives in Lyon) acting as surrogate tutor. This is the starting point of Just Kids [+see also:
interview: Christophe Blanc
film profile], the touching and very just new film from Christophe Blanc (revealed with An Outgoing Woman), released in French cinemas on 5 August by Rezo Films.
How does a brotherhood absorb grief and organise itself day to day? The topic could have been tackled from the angle of psychological realism alone, and of course the director (who wrote the script together with Béryl Peillard) methodically explores this aspect, observing the very beautiful relationship of brotherly love and protection (which nevertheless does not exclude a few blunders, minor disputes and clarifications) which unites the eldest Jack (a very solid performance from Kacey Mottet Klein) and his younger brother Mathis (the revelation Andrea Maggiulli), their sister Lisa (Anamaria Vartolomei) deciding early on to depart for the South to escape from the overwhelming ghosts of the family’s past. But the story also follows a path akin to the investigation thriller, when an unpleasant visit and a series of cryptic texts left on the dead father’s mobile phone lead Jack (who feels a strong need to find an explanation for the suicide of his father, a gambling addict) to make his way to Spain. An investigation he also gets his younger brother and his best friend Quentin (Ahmed Abdel Laoui) involved in. Before anything else, Jack and Mathis are most of all young men: while the former hides his pain, loves to party and to go out with the kind Maureen (Angelina Woreth), the latter struggles to put on a brave face (especially at school) due to the loss of his parents, which radically affects his connections with others. Above all, the two brothers are left to their own devices, a freedom that is simultaneously exciting and destabilising…
Beautifully designed on the level of the photography (Noé Bach), of the music (which punctuates many sequences) and of the variety of rhythms, styles (going as far as the oniric) and settings (the film travels from the characters’ flat to the surrounding mountains, and from Grenoble to Spain, going through the South of France), Just Kids is a moving, dynamic film which remains relatively intriguing for most of its runtime. This mix allows Christophe Blanc to subtly bring to the surface the truths buried in the scarred souls of each of the characters without ever falling into absolute melodrama, restoring instead the fine nuances of this interlacing of complex emotions which binds family relations, often for the best and sometimes for the worse.
(Translated from French)
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