The New Girlfriend – Reviewed by C MacNamara
Director: François Ozon
Starring: Anais Demoustier, Romain Duris, Raphael Personnaz, Isild Le Besco
French Director François Ozon (The Swimming Pool, 8 Women) has been something of a cinematic rockstar of late, never one to shy away from tackling heavy social issues of morality and sexuality. His latest film The New Girlfriend (or Un Nouvelle Amie) dissects and analyses the complex topics of homosexuality and transvestism, and manages to interweave them into a unique overarching masterpiece all its own.
The film centres on the relationship between David and Claire, who are drawn together over the recent death of wife and mutual friend Laura. From the get-go it is clear there is more bubbling under the surface of the characters relationships than simple teary eyed remembrance, and what opens as a sequence of cheesy childhood flashbacks and summer love shifts so suddenly into the dark realm of sexual conflict and psychological realism as to make the idyllic opening seem satirical. A whirlwind of repressed secrets and pressure cooker passions quickly ensues, and does not let up until the credits roll.
Anais Demoustier and Romain Duris performances give oodles of subtlety and emotion to the equally complex characters. Duris in particular is remarkable in tackling the complexities and contradictions of David, as he takes on various roles throughout the film; first as the grieving new-born father attempting to fill both parental roles, then the self-indulgent pseudo antagonist manipulating Claire’s own fantasies to fuel his own, and finally as the life affirming icon of gender identity and acceptance.
However even a film this steeped in its characters is not without lame ducks, and so much screen time is devoted to the two leads that side characters are often left half constructed. Claire’s husband Gilles largely serves to act as a convenient foil from scene to scene, and his personality is often dropped for the sake of the overarching plot and pacing. But minor issues like this should not detract from the fact that this is singly one of the deepest and multifaceted character stories in recent years, and a ringing endorsement of Ozon’s directing talent. Regardless of your stance on the films subject matter, one cannot deny that it’s a rollercoaster from beginning to end.