News from the Locarno Festival


Concorso Cineasti del presente


Valerie Massadian’s second feature, following the 2011 Locarno's Opera Prima winner Nana, is again about a young woman coming to understand the world, one step at a time, one day at a time. But unlike the four-year-old Nana, Milla’s eponymous protagonist – 17, but older than her years – has already graduated from the middle school of life. She learns the lessons of adulthood, and that takes time. Completely bereft of sentimentality, Massadian’s expansive portrait takes place at a port town in Northern France, where Milla (Séverine Jonckeere) and her boyfriend Leo (Luc Chessel) set up in an empty house that is gradually transformed into a home, two lovers seemingly alone in a cruel world represented by the crashing waves and constant sounds of the sea. Life itself (and, indeed, nature) intervenes after Leo takes a job on a fishing boat, and Milla, suddenly with child – Massadian occasionally interrupts her determined naturalism with both narrative ellipses and moments of brazen artificiality – must persevere. (Eventually Milla ends up as a hotel cleaner, working alongside Massadian, in a too-brief supporting role.)

With her precise photographic eye, Massadian crafts an empathetic mise-en-scène that is at the same time distancing and intimate; as in Nana, she places her camera in just the right place to record her characters, or, for example, the dappling light as it enters a house through curtains. Sometimes to be simple is to be daring, and in creating Milla’s world and allowing her to live in it, Massadian has fashioned a moving, memorable and transformative work that begins and ends with two different, yet equal, kinds of love.

Mark Peranson
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