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Reviews by Rich Cline | See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 7.Dec.21

The French Boys 2  
Reviews by Rich Cline
The French Boys 2
release UK 13.Dec.21
21/UK NQV 1h32

the swimming trunks
With four longer-than-usual short dramas, this second French collection features films that are able to dig more deeply into their characters and situations. Each one hones in on unspoken elements in relationships between men or boys and their friends, classmates, fathers and brothers. Often, this involves feelings that they don't understand ourselves, and the actors and filmmakers expertly handle these pivotal points in their characters lives.

forte and le vaillant dir-scr Benjamin Vu
with Jean-Baptiste Le Vaillant, Solal Forte, Audrey Quoturi, Emma Lopes, Margaux Adam, Alicia Poirer, Anais Poirer, Julia Bondis
18/France 32m

Tomber   4.5/5

Falling Vivid characters help this short bristle with delicate intrigue, continually cutting under the surface of characters who reveal who they are beneath their expected roles. Writer-director Benjamin Vu keeps the approach intimate, maintaining a relaxed tone with soft-spoken dialog that subtly explores a growing connection between two very different young men. The script may be a bit talky, but the way it meanders around the central topic is very clever.

The story centres on Baptiste and Leo (Le Vaillant and Forte), teen students assigned to work together on a book report. As the captain of the school handball team, Baptiste is popular with the girls, while the bullied Leo shyly keeps to himself. Meeting up in Leo's home, Baptiste is surprised to discover Leo's confidence and creativity. As they speak, they find more common ground than they expected. And both are concealing their interest in the other.

The film is set in 1994, hinting that it has autobiographical echoes and referencing how Leo was badly beaten by Baptiste's teammates at a class party simply because he was gay. Shifting the power dynamic between them, Leo comments that people don't attack Baptiste when they learn details about his private life. With close-up camerawork and open-handed performances from both young actors, Vu explores the interest Baptiste keeps secret from everyone to maintain his popular status. And where it goes is understated, surprising and beautifully resonant.

elleouet and procida dir-scr Yohann Kouam
with Adama Procida, Yann-Gael Elleouet, Augustin Ruhabura, Ernest Pokossy, Ismael Alexandrine, Regis Anguiar, Sileymane Drame, Christopher Mompongo
13/France 22m

The Return  
Le Retour   4/5

The Return Nicely observant without being preachy, this short drama confronts big themes head-on. Writer-director Yohann Kouam is exploring the peer-pressure tension between family and friends in a story set in France's African-immigrant subculture. The violent element in the narrative perhaps feels a bit simplistic, but as a study in the nature and expression of self-loathing, this film carries a powerful but beautifully understated kick.

At 15, Willy (Procida) is happy to see his big brother Theo (Gael), who left town a year ago. He's back home for a visit, and begins to worry that Willy has fallen in with a crowd of thugs, which their father (Ruhabura) hasn't seemed to notice. But while Willy is secretly growing tired of his swaggering friends' homophobic comments, he takes things too far himself in one awful encounter.

The film is sharply shot and edited to capture details in Willy's life, as well as his internalised thoughts as he confronts his own feelings. With delicate acting and direction, there's a sharp depiction of how difficult it is for both Theo and their father to connect with him. And the way the characters find a way to cut through the tension is skilfully underplayed by the cast, bringing out unexpectedly moving angles that are genuinely moving.

dulphe and vallade dir-scr Damien Gault
with Manuel Vallade, Philippe de Jacquelin Dulphe, Catherine Giron, Rebecca Finet
12/France 18m


Footing With an earthy sense of humour and realistic dramatic honesty, this French short takes place almost in real time as a father and son take a run around their hometown. Writer-director Damien Gault is cleverly exploring the way close relationships shift over time, as well as the need to find ways of understanding the people we love most. And in the simmering tension between these men, the film says a lot without needing many words.

Visiting his hometown from Paris on a winter morning, set designer Marco (Vallade) is reluctant to go for a long run with his athletic retired-cop father Jean-Claude (Dulphe). But as they jog around the village, they begin to speak to each other, remaining on safe ground talking about wife/mother Rosa (Giron). Eventually more contentious issues seep into their conversation, such as how Jean-Claude never asks about Marco's boyfriend.

As minor incidents force them to speak more openly, both Vallade and Dulphe are terrific at bringing out their characters' inner lives while maintaining their reluctance to speak openly. They also knowingly capture the closeness between a father and son, which has transitioned into something very different later in life, bringing up issues that prevent them from fully engaging with each other. The way they're forced to interact is very cleverly written and played.

weber and manning dir-scr Mathilde Bayle
with Roger Manning, Stanley Weber, Ines Giardino, Carole Franck, Frederic Bouraly, Audrey Bonnet, Chantal Ravalec, Barbara Drouinaud Bobineau
13/France 20m

The Swimming Trunks  
Le Maillot de Bain   4.5/5

The Swimming Trunks This bold little drama beautifully captures the sense of getting away from home and making new discoveries about the world and yourself. Writer-director Mathilde Bayle shoots the film in a sunny, real-world location, while cleverly maintaining a tight point of view, seeing everything through the eyes of a young boy who is perplexed by his own thoughts. It's an unusually insightful exploration of pre-adolescent sexuality that carries an important, skilfully understated message.

On a seaside holiday, 10-year-old Remi (Manning) is exploring the swimming pool, the beach and the surrounding forest. One day he meets Lea (Giardino), although it's her handsome father Stephane (Weber) who actually catches his eye. Remi has no idea why he's so fascinated by Stephane, and he's unable to stop thinking about his swimsuit. Although Remi already knows enough to hide these feelings from his parents.

The way Bayle explores Remi's dawning sexuality is very unusual, since he's too young to know what these stirrings mean. Young Manning is terrific at letting the audience see the thoughts spinning in his head, most notably in an impulsive moment of action. It's rare to see a filmmaker take on this topic, especially with such straightforward realism. Each performance has an honest, off-handed quality to it that brings out the underlying themes in important ways.


cert 15 themes, language, violence 6.Dec.21

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