jeune femme

- Review by Amanda Harvey

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Léonor Serraille’s Jeune Femme (2017) attempts to examine Paula Simonian (Laetitia Dosch) as she reassembles her life. However, due to her charming personality mainly composed of utter selfishness, developing into childishness, and finally nurturing unjustified disobedience, there was not much of an adult life to rebuild. For instance, the very fabric of her own personality is established through the ‘brick red’ jacket she stole from an adolescent patient in the hospital, the layer of indecency and fashionable crimes. Her perpetual malcontent is reiterated time and time again through her troubles with her ex-boyfriend. It turns out, college professor turned boyfriend, but unfortunately the pupil stayed ten years too long never learning her lesson. Thus, the film attempts to shine light on a blundering adult, but misses the mark by showing how maturity is bred not born.  

Paula does not deserve easy empathy because her self-created tragic relationships with those who are burdened to know her, showcase the obvious difference in who we think we are versus who we actually are. The relationships loosely fabricated in the film are shallow as she rapidly rips through each person. The casual, noncommittal, and destructive atmosphere of her relationships is enhanced by the brevity of their screen existence. In addition, there are too many moments in the film where her body is played with as different people grope her desperately as a form of expressive exacerbation. These scenes of pure absurdity could represent another form of malice different from her own. However, the scenes seem unprovoked and inexplicable to the point where the scenes disrupt and fracture the very film, but without an added moral or fictional function.

Another thing that really seems to be playing into the grander schematic rules of the female protagonist, was the trivial use of a cut as a bodily signifier of the woman’s discontent. By the end of the film the cut heals as if showing how time does a woman good to cleanse her of her notions, thus Paula’s struggles for agency dissipates as if they were simply a cheap fragrance in the air. Equally important is the significant fact that her attempt at agency, ripping quickly and rotting slowly, is denounced by her unpromising characteristics.

Despite all of the flaws in the film there are a few moments worth remembering, though these moments are in the background of a general discomfort and distaste creating a personal genuine plea for more accurate representations of women.