‘Young Solitude’ Review by Lola Rose
‘Young Solitude’ (‘Premieres Solitudes’) devised by the French filmmaker Claire Simon and a group of young film students is a stylised, passionate, fly-on-the-wall documentary. In other words it’s very much a French picture – introspective, beguiling, truthful and emotional all in one. The film is centred upon troubled adolescents trying to cope with the struggle of family life and throughout the film, each actor explains how this has affected their childhood. The youths seem to act like themselves but are dropped into taut scenes crafted by the director. The film is set in a High School which perches like a fortress above a gloomy, ugly, nowhere town. There are traces of a suffocating 1980’s suburban boredom that might reflect the director’s own experience of being a teenager and how she grew up in French culture. Throughout the film, there are long intense scenes involving the teenagers who question and engage to each other about the tragedy that each other’s lives have held. They reveal things to each other by going into great depth while still holding onto a real honesty, which helps lure the audience in while keeping them entertained and engaged. I would argue that is difficult to achieve in a film where nothing much is actually happening on screen.
Claire Simon may have encouraged the cast to talk about their feelings of isolation but the conversations veer off into heartfelt examinations of family relationships often fractured by divorce. Some of the characters introduced are: Melodie, the daughter of a Cambodian refugee; Manon, who struggles to cope with her dull suburban life and Lisa whose dysfunctional, heart-breaking family history and difficult upbringing takes the teen discussions to a brutally honest level.
Melodie tells the school nurse how she eats separately from her mother to which the nurse expresses surprise, but Melodie seems unfazed by the lack of engagement between herself and her mother. To her it makes perfect sense as she explains that they have different interests, Melodie likes to watch French tv while her mum stays in another room to watch Cambodian movies on an iPad. Melodie explains how she does not know the language or have much connection to her mother’s culture and this separates them.
Manon is angry about her parent’s financial downfall because it brought them to this dormitory town. She longs to go back to Paris and return to a more exciting life.
Lisa, however, is different; she has suffered her whole life from having to deal with her mother’s mental illness and talks about how her mother’s schizophrenia has caused her family to fall apart. She also reveals how her father also had family issues and opens up about both her grandparent’s suicides and how this was the start of the tragedy now seeming to haunt the surviving family members forever, tearing them apart. Because of this, Lisa has pretty much raised herself and does not have many positive feelings about family life.
Towards the end of this movie, the film cuts to a scene where the girls discuss what they aspire to do in their future adult lives. This contrasts with the earlier scenes which have focused on their past childhood and their present experiences. In a strangely old-fashioned conversation, those girls who are optimistic about their future, plan how many children they will have, whereas Lisa, unsurprisingly because of her unhappy family experiences, is adamant she doesn’t want to have any children. Maybe the others are willing to see past their family disputes and start anew.
With its very intense, serious conversations, the film feels less like a portrait of the modern youth we expect in a fast-paced, image-conscious, digital century, and more of an age-old tale about the hope and uncertainty of stepping out into the world as an adult.
Lola Rose, September, 2018
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