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Dream Life of Angels, The

Director: Eric Zonca


Perhaps the most popular prize awarded at this year’s Cannes Film Festival was that for ‘Best Actress’, which was shared by Elodie Bouchez and Natacha Regnier for their terrific performances in this stirring and assured feature debut by Eric Zonca. Bouchez (Les Roseaux Sauvages, Clubbed to Death) and newcomer Regnier play two very different young women who have a common bond in that they’re both social outsiders. The vibrant Isa (Bouchez) is on the road with all her belongings in a rucksack. She arrives in the northern city of Lille and takes a job in a local factory. After being fired from her position she strikes up a friendship with the sullen, moody Marie (Regnier), who reluctantly allows her new pal to stay with her.
The two woment have diametrically opposed personalities. Despite being on the lowest rung of the social ladder, Isa is stoically optimistic at all times. Marie, by contrast, is sullen, unsociable and in rebellion against her background. One of the strengths of the film is the way it details the awkward, often explosive interaction between the pair. Throughout, zonca studiously avoids any kind of superficial female bonding.
There is also a freshness about the film’s treatment of the women’s relationships with men, which again draws out the differences in their personalities. Isa is straightforward and honest with her partners, but Marie is much more circumspect. As Isa pursues other interests, Marie becomes involved with two spectacularly unsuitable men, which leads to emotional meltdown.
Filmed in the hyper-realist style that has come to dominate much of recent quality French cinema, The Dream Life of Angels has a visceral impact that never lets its audiences off the hook. Ultimately, though, it is the quality of the two superb central performances that makes the film so engaging and affecting.

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