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WATER LILIES

Director: CELINE SCIAMMA

FRANCE • 2007 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 85 MIN


ON THE SURFACE THE SYNCHRONISED SWIMMING TEAM ARE ALL POISE AND GRACE, BUT UNDERNEATH THEY’RE KICKING AWAY LIKE MAD, AND TEENAGER MARIE KNOWS EXACTLY HOW THEY FEEL IN THIS BEAUTIFULLY OBSERVED TALE OF THE PERILS OF ADOLESCENCE.
Writer-director Celine Sciamma’s first feature was one of the buzz titles in Cannes last year, and it’s not hard to see why—she captures the everyday traumas of being fifteen, flat-chested and gawky with sympathy, spot-on observation and an assured visual rhythm too. Marie (Pauline Acquart) stands on the sidelines at a synchronised swimming competition and wishes she was on the team. If that’s not going to happen then at least she can befriend Floriane (Adele Haenel), the blonde bombshell who’s one of the key performers yet coldshouldered by the other girls on the team for her seemingly sluttish behaviour. They’re unlikely pals, yet Marie realises that the apparently super-together Floriane needs a confidante too, even if this leaves her former best friend Anne (Louise Blachere), who’s as burly and outgoing as Marie is petite and shy, out in the cold. And when you factor in the girls’ rivalry over a certain hunky male, then it really starts to get complicated. The locations in and around the utopian architecture of ’60s-built outer-Parisian suburb Cergy-Pontoise give the film a distinctively unified look, against which Sciamma sets the wonderfully naturalistic performances, exposing the confusions which result when raging hormones and social skills haven’t quite knitted together, and making no distinctions between same-sex passions or hetero longing. Knowing, perceptive and obviously shaped from bitter experience, this is a debut to treasure.—Trevor Johnston.

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