ROSALIE BLUM. France, 2016. Starring Noemie Lvovsky, Kyan Khojandi, Alice Isaaz, Anemone, Philippe Rebbot, Sarah Girardeau, Camille Rutherford, Nicolas Bridet. Directed by Julien Rappenneau. 95 minutes. Rated M (Coarse language).
This is a comparatively brief film, about a selection of ordinary people, people who might be considered as missing out on life, living in the city of Nevers. But, it is a joy to watch, a film that could be described as nice in its feelgood effect for the audience. It is practically perfect in its way.
And who is Rosalie Blum? She owns a fruit and grocery store in Nevers and sells a can of crabmeat to Vincent Machot, a 30-something hairdresser, working in a daily routine in a business that he inherited from his father. Vincent has a dominating mother (something of an understatement) who lives in the unit above him, tapping on his ceiling each morning to let him know that she is there and his realising what he will have to do for her that day. Vincent lives are very ordered life, allegedly with a girlfriend but she has moved to Paris six months earlier and keeps cancelling meeting up. His cousin, his best friend, is a philanderer, always wanting Vincent to stand up to his mother.
The film is in three parts, the first part focusing on Vincent himself, the second on a young woman called Aude, the third part on Rosalie herself. By the end of the first part, we have got to know Vincent rather well, quite a sympathetic man in himself, but rather timid, self-contained, bullied by his mother upstairs with her range of dolls and toys and re-enacting fantasy scenarios from her imagination. Vincent has been stirred by Rosalie and that chance meeting, thinking that he had met her before, and then taking up following her, the audience complicit with him as we too want to know more about Rosalie. So, by the end of the first part, we have enjoyed a film that is tres amusant, tres Francais. It gets better.
Aude is 25-year-old who, by her own confession, is lazy, preferring to do nothing but being urged to get a job labelling bottles in he factory, sharing her life with two friends, Cecile and Laura, and sharing an apartment with an extraordinary eccentric showman, Roomies (and seeing his dog, Miranda, whom he wants to perform as a lion is very amusing). Aude does not have much prospect for life, alienated from her mother, a good amateur photographer but having opted out of further education. It won’t spoil anything for the viewer, but it emerges that she is Rosalie’s niece.
As this second part moves on, the film becomes even more enjoyable, one might say deliciously so, as we get the opportunity to look at events and at Vincent from Rosalie’s and Aude’s point of view, revisiting some of the episodes we have already seen – which makes very entertaining re--viewing.
Which means that the third part, focusing on Rosalie herself, offers some kind of revelation – but, better to go and see it all rather than read or hear about it from someone else.
As the film progresses, every seemingly loose thread is connected in a very satisfying way, a happy ending that we weren’t anticipating, another episode that we might have been anticipating but is treated with prudence – and, just as those around sense words coming up on the screen and limber up to exit the cinema and final credits, there is a very good epilogue which ties some further ends together, again not as we might have anticipated.
So, Rosalie Blum herself and the film called by her name is continually surprising.
It will be a pleasing experience to see the film again.
Palace Released December 26th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.