Review: Her Way
- Laure Calamy tackles the difficult role of a sex worker and Mother Courage who wants to secure the future of her teenage son, in Cécile Ducrocq’s feature debut
"Everyone does the job they want or can do. You’re not going to lecture us!" Marie (Laure Calamy) is a woman with a very strong character. Completely comfortable with her job as an independent sex worker, which she has been doing for a long time, she also defends tooth and nail her son Adrien (Nissim Renard), who has just been expelled from hotel school in Strasbourg. A guidance counsellor suggests he joins the sector of security work in the few public schools that still have a few free spaces, but like all mothers do, Marie wants what’s best for her child. Even though talking with and motivating a 17-year-old is far from simple, she will do her maximum to try and offer him a future, although her social status and her economic resources will prove to be rather considerable obstacles. Such is the story told by Cécile Ducrocq in Her Way [+see also:
film profile], which just had its world premiere in the First Feature Competition of the 25th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival and will be released in French cinemas on 8 December via Tandem.
Steered by a client towards the École Perandier, a private school of great renown that would allow Adrien to fulfil his dreams of becoming head chef, Marie must first convince her son (who tells people his mother is an “at-home hairdresser”) not to give up hope (“it’s for bourgeois kids, not for us”) and to try his luck at the entry exam with the generous help of the (transexual) lawyer working for an organisation for the defence of sex workers (fighting and protesting against the criminalisation of clients and against the subjugated position of working in vans for pathetic pimps and salaries) that Marie belongs to. After covering letters, interview simulations and arguments, Adrien is finally selected.
But this victory is only the beginning of a fierce financial battle, since the school costs €9,000 per year and Marie has two months to pay a deposit of €5,000. However, as her banker underlines, she makes between €1,200 and €1,500 a month, pays €350 for rent and €200 for Adrien’s student housing, and this without taking into consideration her taxes: “Sorry, your expenses are too high and you income too low; the highest possible debt ratio is 33%, so we cannot offer you a consumer loan because there is no possibility of a mortgage, or a student loan because there is no guarantor.” Marie is in a dead-end and must abandon her freedom. She crosses the border and gets hired in the Oltromondo club in Offenbourg, Germany (“I can’t say I’m delighted, but if I have to do it, I’ll do it”). Every night, in the venue run by Bruno (Sam Louwick), among the trainers/sex workers headed by Tatiana (Diana Korudzhiyska), Marie counts with increasing desperation the money she is still missing for her chance to help Adrien climb a few levels in the echelons of existence…
Carried by the energy of Laure Calamy, who is as excellent as ever (continuing in the momentum of her performances in, amongst others, the series Call My Agent and the films My Donkey, My Lover & I [+see also:
film profile] and Full Time [+see also:
interview: Eric Gravel
film profile]), Her Way is an endearing feature debut. With a few touches around the “classical” heart of its story (a mother-son relationship both stormy and loving), the filmmaker paints the portrait of a line of work of relative normality, yet paradoxically remains very timid in her description of the world of sex work, softening its roughest corners. It’s a well-meaning compromise, understandable in line with the aim to reach the largest possible audience, but one which places the film at a considerable distance from the great films about the same topic.
(Translated from French)
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