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Review: The Sixth Child


- Léopold Legrand signs a fascinating, masterful and very well interpreted first feature about an illegal practice carried out secretly by two couples

Review: The Sixth Child
Sara Giraudeau and Benjamin Lavernhe in The Sixth Child

“I thought we could come to an agreement.” When a completely illegal proposition comes to you, but your emotions push you to the temptation of accepting it, each participant inevitably enters dangerous territory. And when the heart of the transaction is a human being, the dilemma is even more challenging, with desires, morals and money making for a very disturbing cocktail. It’s in this grey area, fed by sudden hesitations, discreet rendez-vous, hopes, stratagems and evolving differences in the perception of the situation that dives The Sixth Child [+see also:
film profile
, the very good first feature by Léopold Legrand, winner of four awards at the 15th Angouleme Francophone Film Festival (Audience, Best Actress, Best Screenplay and Best Music awards) and released today in French cinemas by Pyramide.

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It’s at the courthouse that Franck (Damien Bonnard) and Julien (Benjamin Lavernhe) meet. The former, who lives in a trailer park in nearby Parisian banlieue, lives by his wits (“I make 1000 euros per month, sometimes less”), working as a scrap metal dealer with his van. An accomplice in a theft of copper cables and an accident on the road, he is let off the hook in an immediate court appearance thanks to Julien, a friendly Parisian lawyer who even offers to drive him home with his wife Anna (Sara Giraudeau), also a lawyer. Over a beer, amidst the unglamourous but hospitable bustle of the settled Traveller families, the lawyer couple meet Meriem (Judith Chemla), Franck's wife with whom she has five children. When questioned, Anna says that she cannot have children. This is the beginning of a spiral.

"Meriem is pregnant. We can't keep it, we'd like to give it away. I don't have a penny left, I owe everyone and I don't have my truck to work with anymore.” When Franck unexpectedly turns up at Julien's office some time later and makes this proposal, the lawyer cries out: "this is human trafficking!" But Anna, whose thwarted desire for a child will prove to be very painful and irrepressible, will not see it at all the same way, precipitating the two couples into an illegal adventure...

The screenplay by Léopold Legrand and Catherine Paillé (an adaptation of Alain Jaspard's novel Pleurer des rivières) is very well constructed with its ellipses and off-screen suggestions open to the viewer's interpretation, and allows the film to weave its way through each encounter, most often in duets made of its four excellent protagonists from two social backgrounds that are poles apart from each other. There is no judgement on their actions, each having their own reasons and disagreements with the secret pact that binds them, which allows The Sixth Child to explore in an intimate and fascinating way the questions of filiation, maternity, abandonment, adoption and the law, and enables the director to successfully enter the world of feature filmmaking.

Produced by  Epithète Films and co-produced by France 2 Cinéma, The Sixth Child is sold by Pyramide International.

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(Translated from French)

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