Released: July 2009
Awards: Special Jury Prize at the 2008 Gijon International Film Festival
Fun Fact: Claire Denis based the father-daughter relationship on her mother’s relationship with her grandfather who raised her as a single parent
Claire Denis takes a close look at familial relations and isolation in this pared back Parisian tale of a father daughter relations. Lionel (Alex Descas) is a train driver who shares an apartment with his daughter Josephine (Mati Diop). She is attending college while falling in love with Noe (Gregoire Colin) who lives in the flat upstairs. Completing the foursome is taxi driver Gabrielle (Nicole Dogue) who perhaps once had a dalliance with Lionel and if not she certainly has a fondness for him.
Lionel is a man of few words using his more than capable face to do most of the talking. Long silences with pained looks expertly convey his sense of isolation and loneliness not only at work but at home. The retirement of a close colleague brings into sharp focus the fate that awaits them all, being passed aside for a newer faster model. Josephine is conflicted as she realises she can’t stay in the shadow of her father but like all children is scared and reluctant to leave the nest taking those first flights of freedom.
Noe is the only surviving member of his family acting as an uneasy caretaker for his parents apartment. He spends as much time abroad as he can, the allure of Josephine the only thing to draw him back. The scene involving the passing of his cat being a stark reminder of what lies in store. Gabrielle is perhaps the loneliest of the lot simply hanging around longing for inclusion into their lives but a nuisance to all.
The film with it’s subtly and silence evokes great poignancy in trying to unravel the heartache of loneliness. Realising that we are becoming more and more insular cutting ourselves off from one another Denis proposes that we are still unable to find true happiness by ourselves. Jefferson Airplane said it best in 1967 in asking; Don’t You Want Somebody to Love? Don’t You Need Somebody to Love?
Further Reading: BFI’s Films Of The Decade